A warning was sounded at the beginning of a recent New Zealand Herald report about the crimes of a couple of blokes who – according to the Indigenous Pacific Uprising – should not be imprisoned.
The warning was in capital letters.
GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING – THIS STORY CONTAINS DESCRIPTIONS OF VIOLENT CRIME.
The two blokes in question were jailed for their part in what the Herald described as
“ … a brutal kidnap where the victim was tortured over 12 hours – his pinky finger cut off with secateurs, both feet shot and his naked body burned with a blowtorch while he was tied up and gagged.
“His attackers, who believed he had robbed another person of “thousands of dollars”, burned his eyes with cigarettes, urinated on him and beat him for hours in a bid to get him to disclose where the money was.”
Five men were arrested after the attack last November.
Two of them – Henry Enoka Kea and Liam Hourigan – pleaded guilty to several charges and were sentenced in the High Court at Auckland.
“Kea and Hourigan were convicted of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, unlawful possession of a pistol, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill, assault with a blunt weapon and injuring with intent to injure.
“The three other men have denied the charges and will stand trial in the High Court at Auckland next year.”
Justice Katz said the attack had caused “devastating” trauma on the victim and his family.
“Their lives will never be the same,” she said.
She said a judge who had dealt with the case earlier had described the attack as “like something taken from a gratuitously violent movie”.
“He said he had never seen such a graphic summary of facts with such violent elements… short of a murder charge,” said Justice Katz.
“The barbarity and cruelty is almost incomprehensible.
“This was exceptionally callous, sadistic… premeditated.”
Justice Katz said Hourigan was the lead offender but Kea was almost equally guilty.
She jailed Hourigan for a total of 12 years and seven months.
He was also sentenced for his part in an arson in an Epsom shop, which had people living above it at the time, and for fleeing police – driving at speeds of more than 200km/h with a loaded firearm and a machete in his car.
Kea was jailed for a total of 10 years and six months.
Both must serve at least half of their sentences before they are eligible for parole.
Point of Order imagines that Sina Brown-Davis, described as a long-time activist and commentator on indigenous rights in local, regional and international forums, will regard those prison terms as further evidence of a failed colonialist justice system that must be scrapped.
She expressed her opinions on the prison system after Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon popped into the headlines by pushing for prisons to be run by Maori tribes.
“This is reckless and ill thought out.”
Point of Order supposes this was the viewpoint of the great majority of New Zealanders (although the threat of being denounced as a racist is apt to have most people think unkindly about what Meng Foon said without publicly stating their dissension).
But as you will quickly learn, Brown-Davis was not on the same wavelength as the majority of this country’s citizens. She went on to argue that:
“Iwi-run prisons will transfer the punitive functions of the state to Maori. Running prisons is leveraging off the oppression of our people. Indigenous Pacific Uprising (IPU) will oppose this all the way.
“The handing over of prison control is not about restoration of Indigenous models of justice, or just-ness. Iwi-run prisons just transfer the punitive functions of the state to Maori.
“Meng Foon’s statements serve only to continue the incarceration of Maori, while also distancing the Crown from accountability.”
Brown-Davis then spelled out the law and order position of the Indigenous Pacific Uprising:
“IPU is against all forms of incarceration, and supports only the decarceration and defunding of prisons, with a clear intent for abolishment. Running prisons is leveraging off the oppression of our people, and iwi have no ethical or cultural standing in investing in the ongoing oppression of our people.
“The investment needs to be in changing the lock-down mentality of the existing system. The mass incarceration and locking up of our people in cages is not a solution for anything, Maori run or otherwise.
“It’s a whole process of dehumanisation. The criminal justice system and the prison system are key in the colonial project within the armoury of the settler colonial state.
“Prisoners are human beings, with human rights, we are sick of the sadistic and vengeful attitude that this country has towards prisoners. We are sick of a racist and punitive system that has resulted in the mass incarceration of Maori.”
And so on.
Brown-Davis referred to United Nations reports about “the dire human rights conditions of incarcerated people in Aotearoa’ and to “systemic racism, colonisation, and neoliberalism” which have declared these people disposable.
Foon’s call for prisons to be run by Maori tribes does nothing to change or even counter this, Brown-Davis contends..
The IPU press statement goes on to call for decolonisation to include the dismantling of “the prison-industrial complex” and the dismantling of “all those systems of social control”.
Among the implications, we are left to wonder about what should happen to the likes of the two blokes mentioned earlier in this post who have been packed off to prison for their crimes. We wonder, too, about what should happen to the hundreds of others who finish up behind bars for murder, rape and extreme violence.
Maybe the idea is to pack them off to charm school (if that isn’t reviled as a colonialist institution).
On the other hand, in this country’s brave new decolonised future perhaps there is no crime because there are no laws.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton.