Thursday, March 28, 2024

Kerre Woodham: Should you put caveats on second chances?

When it comes to second chances for people, do you put caveats on those second chances?

So you're allowed a second chance, but you must refrain from being in the public eye. Or you're allowed a second chance, but you must always present a subdued demeanour and never look as though you're enjoying life ever again.

When you have done something dreadful, absolutely appalling, when you have done something criminal and you have been convicted for that, at what point are you allowed to work again? To participate in the community or society again?

And I ask this for two reasons, a) because the Wellington Repertory Theatre is in the news after casting a convicted rapist in the lead role for its run of the play ‘Murdered to Death’. Now, it's a lead role so Harrison Stuart 's face is on the posters. He's a big part of the social media advertising campaign and given that he was convicted of sexual violation by rape, some of his fellow actors say that they're distressed, and his victim survivor is particularly distressed.

Harrison Stuart was studying drama at the time of his trial so he could perhaps argue that this is his job, this is what he's trained to do. He's come out of prison; he's trying to get work in the field in which he studied. He's done his time; he's entitled to do his job and the Repertory Theatre seems to be standing by that. They say that crew and cast were consulted on a comprehensive risk management plan surrounding the casting of Stuart, including banning him from being alone with anyone and forbidding him drinking alcohol before or during any interaction with the cast and crew. So, they say they have fulfilled their obligations.

Jessica Te Wiata is the victim survivor, she had to endure two trials before a jury before Stuart was found guilty of indecent assault and sexual violation by rape in 2021. He was a former friend; her trust was horribly betrayed. He was sentenced to four years in prison but was out after two due to his good behaviour. She says Stuart has not accepted responsibility for his actions —he didn't then, and he hasn’t now— and she would have liked to have been consulted before he was cast, and his photo was put on the posters.

So, should Stuart be allowed to work in his chosen field? Given that he studied to be an actor, he could argue you know that is what I do. Others might say goodness, out of prison and barely washed the prison grime off you and there you are front and centre on the stage, posters all around town, any thought that this perhaps might cause pain for the victim, the victim 's family? What are the caveats you would put on this young man finding work again? If he doesn't find work, he's going to be a drain on the taxpayer for the rest of his life.

What about Kiri Allan, the former Justice Minister who has a trial upcoming after being taken into the cells by police after crashing a car. Drinking, the police dogs were called, I mean it was just a shambles. I can't think of a Justice Minister who fell from grace so spectacularly, but I interviewed her yesterday around the Civil Defence Report and the deficiencies in the Hawkes Bay Civil Defence response to Cyclone Gabriel, because she was, as well as a former Justice Minister, a former Civil Defence Minister. And she had absolute institutional knowledge of what the response was at the time, and she had a very good oversight and overview of Civil Defence in New Zealand. Should that knowledge be lost? I don't think so.

I had a few texts from people saying this is an outrage, I'm never listening to talk back again and how dare you and how dare you have her on. I didn't just have her on a whim because I fancied a chat and a catch up. I had her on because she knows her subject, she knows the topic. I felt she added value to the conversation. Is she supposed to go away and never be seen ever again? She has to earn a living and that's what she's doing, she set up a consultancy firm. The trial is still to come but you know no doubt that it'll be relitigated when it comes up, but I would still use her because of the knowledge she has in her specific fields.

So, it's tricky.

I guess it's trickier if you feel justice has not been done. To me, four years seems very light in the first instance for rape. Secondly, two years seems even lighter, so if you feel justice has not been done it's hard to move on and I can understand that.

If you have served your time, you've learnt your lesson, you've made a terrible, terrible mistake or you've behaved in an appalling fashion and you have had a complete seismic shift in terms of how you view the world and how you see yourself in it which will prevent you from behaving like that again, how do you prove you're worthy of a second chance? And if second chances have continual caveats on them, are they really second chances?

So, it's a tricky one.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

NZ's obsession with "fair go, giving all a chance, backing the underdog " etc etc .... has become its biggest downfall.

Most people get one chance in life. Some are very lucky and get two . A
very small number get more.

NZers come across as naive bumpkins.

Time to grow up.

CXH said...

Didn't Kiri set up her consultancy service before she resigned? If so, this is a different concept.