Lyndon Hood - concerned citizen, Lower Hutt

Monday, April 04, 2005

You won't be shocked to learn that I find "The Sensible Sentencing Trust" to be an entirely misleading name.

Generally, what bothers me isn't so much that I entirely disagree with their ideas or that they're noisy about promoting them, but that they seem to be taken seriously by the Phil Goffs of this world.

But they do appear to actually be a trust and so far they have mainly been concerned with sentencing.

Now the Dom Post (April 2) reports that the trust will be campaigning in support of Paul Kingi, who was convicted in March of the manslaughter of his uncle. While Garth McVicar's press release on the subject is dated as the first of the month, it doesn't seem to be an April Fools joke.

That said, the only other evidence that it's for real is the way that according to Google's cache Paul Kingi used to be in the Trust's offender database and now he isn't. Not that their database is famous for its accurate details anyway.

The press release is more helpful than the article about what's going on in McVicar's head (and apparently that of Dermot Nottingham, last seen advocating that the cop who shot Steven Wallace should got to trial). Looks like he's not saying that getting involved in a dispute over a bull which ends with you hitting the other guy so he cracks his head on the concrete floor and dies is always okay, or proposing the establishment of a new 'I was angry' defense.

It's just that this case was "in reality no more than self-defense".

This line was actually tried in front of that jury in March, but our campaigners claim to have "hard evidence" of perjury by Crown witnesses. They're just holding off until the sentencing later this week. The implication is that if Kingi gets prison time they will lay their cards on the table.

It's hard to imagine how much difference it could make. The jury presumably knew the (60 year-old) uncle had hit a farmhand earlier in the day and, if he wasn't actually attacking Paul Kingi, was sure riled. What they found was that the accused used, in the Post's words "excessive force". Given that he's a 33 year-old professional kickboxer once titled the strongest man in the country, that's easy to imagine.

Incidentally, both these guys are apparently Mormons. Just goes to show, I guess.

Anyway, the temperature of the argument was no doubt taken into account by the jury (who would also have assesed the credibility of the witnesses). If they'd thought he used reckless force and was deliberately trying to injure his uncle, they could probably have found him guilty of murder.

It's not actually okay to kill someone in a fight. If McVicar wants to change that bit of the system, it would mean releasing some of his most-cited felons.

And there has to be some kind of proportion even to pure self-defense. To take an extreme example, someone bitchslapping you isn't permission to get out your Uzi. Even then, if there's uncertainty as to whether you were really defending yourself, it needs to go to trial.

Still, they might have something earth-shattering that I'm overlooking. We can but wait and see.

What I'm vaguely hoping is that acting to clear a convicted criminal is outside the official scope of the Trust. With a bit of creativity it could probably be jimmied into their goals and policy, but I wistfully imagine the Companies Office came down on McVicar's ass.

At the very least, he's diluting his brand. I suppose that's all good.