Wow. I opened my paper this morning to read about a woman who'd just been handed down a sentence for misleading investors causing losses of $200 million dollars.
Now, were this an ordinary blue-collar (or red-bandanna) criminal, guilty of causing a loss of even a hundredth or a thousandth of this amount through a direct wrongful taking or other conventional malfeasance, we would quite rightly be demanding that they face the harsh custodial sanction of a short stay courtesy of Her Majesty.
But no, it's the director of a failed finance company - a white collar criminal - and this therefore apparently means she deserves a sentence of a mere nine months home-detention and 80 hours community work.
The nine months' home detention, almost incidentally, is going to be taking place in a palatial Remuera mansion so absurdly spacious that the Department of Corrections wasn't sure their extant ankle-bracelet hardware would actually be able to cover the whole house, let alone the 15 meter swimming pool.
Now while I'm hardly the average frothing member of the Sensible Sentencing Trust (which my years at law school have taught me to regard as frequently being neither sensible nor trust-worthy), it's the multiple injustices inherent in this sort of thing that really make my (weakly-oxygenated, progressive) blood boil!
For the record, I thoroughly approve of the idea of restitutional justice and thus applaud the notion of including a strong component of serving one's community in any serious sentence - as we can see here, the harms wrought by this individual are clearly of such a scale and magnitude so as to have affected the community at large, so it is only appropriate that some measure of direct compensation form an important part of her sentence.
But does the other part of her sentence - the home-habitation bit - actually have to also take place in the community?
Does the specter of being sentenced to live in your own mansion really provide an adequate deterrent?
How many of those who've been made victims by the fraudulent antics of failed finance company directors can still even AFFORD to live in their own homes?
Is it fair that one (social) class of offender seems to be treated ever so more leniently than others?
Does NZ First have a solution?
YES, OF COURSE WE DO!
NZ First has long believed that the prospect of home detention doesn't actually provide an adequate deterrent for white collar criminals intent on fleecing investors and companies; nor does it represent a suitable symbolic sanction from the perspective of the community and victims. Instead, as we see in this case, home-d can frequently wind up appearing to be an easy option or not more than a modicum of punishment at all.
So what's our solution?
Hard labour for white collar criminals :D
Keeps me happy because there's still the "community-work-by-way-of-restitution-to-the-wronged-community" element kept in there; would probably go some ways toward meeting victims' expectations of retributive justice; attempts to pacify the right-wing commissar-execution brigade by bringing back hard labour; and on top of all of this, sends a really strong message to our potential white collar criminal coterie (i.e. every finance-house and embezzler in the land) that their conduct WILL NOT be treated far more leniently than any other form of wrongful taking or illicit inducement of loss.
Hard labour for white collar criminals. Beats "incarcerating" them with a 15 meter swimming pool!
An old favourite political-economy joke of mine runs thus: "Any bro can steal from a railroad car ... but it takes a bro with a PhD in Economics to steal the whole dang railroad!"
If this whole 'hard labour for white collar criminals' thing kicks off, the next logical progression to my mind is to establish a similar category of sentencing for those engaged in outright economic treason at the Cabinet level and down.
I mean, if we're committed to exemplary actual-punishment sentences for those who defraud our communities and mislead investors ... then why not take this closer to its logical conclusion by instituting similar sentences for those who defraud our country and mislead citizens by flogging off our nation's asset-base, for instance.
With any luck, it'd make guys like Bill English think twice!
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