Retired District Court Judge Roy Wade says an interesting feature of today’s sentencing is that the 17-year jail terms handed down were more than what the Crown asked for – an unusual situation.
LISTEN ABOVE: Justice Roy Wade talks to Larry Williams
Prosecutor Amanda Gordon asked the judge to give life sentences but if that were not possible, she suggested a starting point of 14 to 16 years for David William Haerewa and 16 to 18 years for Tania Shailer.
“What happens these days is both side put forward what they call their starting points before any discount is given for things like previous good character and remorse,” Judge Wade said.
“That’s the starting point the judge is supposed to identify. He supposed to be assisted in the collection of that figure from what counsel on both sides submit.
“One of the interesting things in this case is the final sentence is more than the starting point suggested by the Crown.”
Judge Wade couldn’t yet be sure of what that was without seeing the sentencing notes.
He agreed with sentencing judge Justice Katz that the 17-year terms for Haerewa and Shailer were the highest in New Zealand for the manslaughter of a child, but they weren’t the highest sentences for manslaughter charges.
Noted career criminal Dean Wickliffe was ordered to serve a life term for manslaughter for a killing during an armed robbery.
The 17-year sentences were expected, Judge Wade said. He thought they’d be “well into double figures”.
Both Haerewa and Shailer must serve at least nine years in jail. Judge Wade said any minimum term can be up to two-thirds of the final sentence.
“When I gave minimum non-parole period it was rarely at the maximum two-thirds – the reason being that the offenders get no motivation at all to do any rehabilitation when he’s in prison because he knows he’s not going to get out anyway.”
Judge Wade told Larry Williams while the sentence was surprising under the manslaughter charge - the pair should have faced murder.
"I think it evitable that she would be convicted of murder, had there been a trial. It's remotely possible he might have got away with a manslaughter verdict, but there's nowhere in the world he would have walked out."
Judge Wade previously wrote an opinion piece for the NZ Herald about his displeasure at the lack of explanation given for the plea bargain.
Although the attorney-general has today released more information about the matter, Judge Wade said the reasons behind the decisions should be disclosed in open court.
In the UK, the decisions were explained and a judge was required to approve the deal.
“The overall impression I’m getting is this is just a cost-cutting exercise. That’s what it seems to be,” he said of plea bargaining.
“It’s interesting that David Parker, the opposition spokesman, has got some information under the Official Information Act and according to him Crown solicitors get more per hours by local councils to prosecute dog attacks.”
Judge Wade said he would like to see a greater sense of balance between Crown and defence payments and raised the possibility of a public prosecution service, similar to the Public Defence Service.
Citing his own experience he recalled the time he was prosecuting a policeman on a careless driving charge and got paid “substantially more” for that than he was getting for defending someone on a murder charge at the same time.
Such imbalances were not proper, Judge Wade said.