Do Innocent Lives Lost Not Count?
On the 27th of September 2019, a family of five decided to head out on a family bike ride to celebrate daylight saving and the start of the school holidays. Leaving home about 6pm, Jonathan (2yrs old) was on a child’s bike seat attached to his father Greg’s bike, while the two other children and their mother Stacey rode their own bikes along a shared cycle and walking track connecting Palmerston North to Longburn.
Without warning a speeding motocross bike with no lights on narrowly missed Stacey and two of the children but he drove head first into Greg, killing young Jonathan and leaving Greg with life long injuries.
In court on 17th July 2020, the Woollaston’s read their victim impact statements, but our so called justice system did not allow them to express what they really felt, or express the devastating effects the crime had on them; they had very specific rules around what they were allowed to say about how that night impacted them. They had their freedom of speech removed!
The driver of the motorbike was 17 years and 10 months old at the time of the fatal accident and it was his first offence. The offender’s lawyer painted him and his family as the victim, stating they have to drive past Jonathan’s memorial site every day. He said what he did was just a bad decision and claimed the offender and his family understand the victims’ pain. The defence lawyer sought no punishment because the offender had said sorry and claimed he didn’t think he would do it again.
The Police youth officer stated he could not be sure he would not reoffend. The Police believed a 6-week boot camp would however be beneficial.
The Judge seemed to ignore the recommendation of the Police and said the offender must pay $8,800 telling him he should not have taken the risk that resulted in the death of an innocent wee boy. He said a 6-week camp would be too restrictive for the offender, even though his work said they would hold his job open. The offender lost his license for 1 year but was eligible for a work license. He also received 100 hours community service – reduced from the recommended 200 hours.
The Judge described the offender’s family as a good, supportive family who don’t do drugs or alcohol and haven’t been before a criminal court before. Yet the offenders family left court very angry and agitated because their son didn’t get off scot free.
If the offender didn’t complete sentencing requirements before his 19th birthday, the youth court will no longer have the jurisdiction to enforce the sentence.
The Woollaston’s feel very let down by the system, as every department within the justice system seemed to only be concerned about the offender’s wellbeing. Oranga Tamariki told them they were there only for the offender. The Judge seemed to want the best for the offender but with absolutely no consideration for the precious life he took – wee Jonathan’s, or the harm and the devastating lifelong effects the accident has had on his grieving family.
Jonathan was a happy, and very much-loved little boy. He loved life and loved his family. He loved exploring the world, playing with his siblings, monster trucks, baking, sandpits, and he especially loved being on the bike with his dad. Greg was left with severe injuries that have altered his life forever and his ability to interact with his other children. That should matter!
Our justice system cannot just be overhauled for the offender! There must be more consideration provided to the victims. Victims must be given the opportunity and the right to read their Victim Impact Statement unedited. It is their only opportunity to have their say. They are the ones who will suffer for the rest of their lives, they have lost a loved one because of another’s selfish actions. They deserve every right to speak their mind and tell that person just what harm their actions have caused them.
Our system is constantly side stepping around the feelings of the offender while trying to silence the feelings of the victims. That is not justice and that is not a fair and just system!
Jonathan’s life matters. Greg’s injuries matter. Victims’ lives matter
Sensible Sentencing Group Trust victim advocate Trish Fabish has started a petition to allow victims to read the Impact Statements unedited. Reading a victim impact statement is the only opportunity to address the offender. It is a huge part of the healing process.
Click here to read the petition and sign, please remember to share it around.