About the Author

Avatar photo

Dr Muriel Newman

State Accountability

Print Friendly and PDF
Posted on

28 January 07

State Accountability

This week the Parole Board decided against the early release of Baily Kurariki, the 17-year-old who was sentenced to seven years in jail for his part in the killing of pizza delivery man Michael Choy in 2001. He was 12 years old at the time.

The Parole Board assessed Kurariki as “continuing to be at very high risk of general and violent reoffending, saying that he demonstrated an immaturity and distorted understanding of society. It expressed concerns about Kurariki’s family doubting whether they had the skills and wherewithal to provide the necessary supervision and oversight for their son, warning that the environment he would be released into harbours significant potentially adverse influences. While he is scheduled for another hearing in July the Board has indicated that he is unlikely to be let out because of the danger he would pose to society.

Back in February 2003 the government released a report into the involvement of state agencies with the six young people who were responsible for Michael Choy’s death. It listed 90 separate interventions. (To read an article, “Report Full of Excuses”, that I wrote about the issue at the time click here)

In Bailey Kurariki’s case, there were 36 separate recorded events starting from when he was seven years old. He and his family were subsequently involved with state agencies on an on-going basis right up until the time of the murder, when he was supposedly in the care of the Department of Child Youth and Family.

The question that needs to be asked, is where is the accountability for the activities of those government agencies? Some would argue that helping severely dysfunctional families is a key role of the state. If so, the state spent five years helping the Kurariki family only to have the boy become a killer. Now, five years later, the family is assessed as still being too dysfunctional to care for their son.

After a decade of government help and millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded assistance, surely we should have been able to expect this family to have become independent contributors to society? The fact that they haven’t is an indictment on the state’s ability to provide assistance at this crucial level. In cases like this, their failure puts us all at risk.

Rita Croskery, Michael Choy’s mother, spoke against Kurariki’s parole, believing that offenders should serve their full court imposed sentences. She reminds us that such parole hearings force victims to relive painful events, and that it is they who have been given a “life sentence”.

Last week’s column on the key underlying cause of crime – the replacement of fathers with the Domestic Purposes Benefit – and the poll question on parole, evoked a strong response from readers. A selection of the hundreds comments I have received can be found on the NZCPD Forum (click here to view).

This year, the results of the weekly polls and a summary of the feedback from readers will be sent to every Member of Parliament – including the Prime Minister – as well as the media. So, if you have something to say to them about the issues discussed each week, don’t forget to vote in the poll and send through your comments.

Acclaimed author Alan Duff is this week’s NZCPD Guest Commentator. Alan responded to last week’s column with a powerful opinion piece on Maori crime and violence, in which he suggests that education, not Closing the Gaps “idiocy”, is the only way forward. (Click to view his article).

Although Maori comprise only 14 percent of the population, they dominate New Zealand ’s crime statistics. According to the latest census, Maori men are almost seven times as likely as non-Maori to be in jail, comprising over half of the prison population. Police statistics also paint a grim picture: in the ten years from 1996 to 2005 there has been a 34 percent increase in violent crime committed by Maori, with more violent crime now being committed by Maori than by Caucasians. (To view stat’s click )

In discussing the violence by Maori warrior-types, Alan Duff states: “In these modern liberal times his every excess is excused, so he does not have the restraints old Maori society imposed on its warriors”.

He is right; many of the traditional restraints on society have now gone: In his book The Treaty of Waitangi, Sir Apirana Ngata reminds us that Maori elders supported a liquor ban on Maori: “There would have been no special liquor laws for Maori if only Maori had consumed liquor wisely. …The day may come when these restrictions can be lifted, when the Maori has become accustomed to liquor, when his bloodstream can counter the fiery effect of liquor”.

Charities and Friendly Societies that supported the poor in the days before state welfare required the indolent and lazy, to get off their backsides and work, as a condition of support. Our early welfare laws expressly denied taxpayer support to the “undeserving” poor, instead requiring that recipients were “of good moral character and sober habits”. The Police had stronger powers to control disorderly behaviour, as did Judges, who were better able to impose sentences aimed at straightening out delinquent offenders. (To read an article, written by Theodore Dalrymple after a visit to New Zealand late last year in which he states: “The judges…own reputation for generosity of spirit and lack of vengefulness was more important to them than protection of the public”, click here.)

But ultimately, until Maori stop seeing themselves as victims and blaming others for their problems, they will always be on the back foot with the ugly millstone of violence hanging around their neck. They must accept that – like every other citizen in this country – they are responsible for their own lives and creators of their own destiny. They should recognise that New Zealand is a land of opportunity – for those who get themselves educated and work hard – and that the best thing that we can do to ensure a brighter future, is pass the aspiration for success onto our children.

The poll this week asks: Do you believe that a core role of central government is to ensure that all able-bodied, working age beneficiaries become independent of the state? Take part in poll

Reader’s comments will be posted on the NZCPD Forum page click to view .

To leave a comment:

[Note: the page link will appear in the email]

Enter a message (optional)