Thursday, September 9, 2010

Minor offenders to be let off with warnings

New Zealand police announced a new policy today, which means that minor offenders may be given warnings instead of being sent to court.

Police say the new policy will free up time to focus on serious offenders, and will reduce the court backlog by tens of thousands every year.

Project leader, Superintendent Bill Searle says, "This initiative enables police officers to spend less time on paperwork, less time appearing in court and more time out on the street preventing offences and focusing on more serious offending."

When an offender is arrested, if they are over the age of 17 and the offence carries less than six months' imprisonment, it is up to the discretion of a senior officer whether to press charges, or impose a warning, which will stay on their record.

The system has been on trial in Auckland for the past 10 months, where nearly 10% of offenders were let off with a warning. So far none of those warned have re-offended.

Police believe this warning system is a "significant deterrent." Supt. Bill Searle says, "We know from similar approaches overseas a large proportion of people who receive a pre-charge warning never re-offend."

However, some people think the police are going soft. Lawyer and former ACT MP Stephen Franks says, "We know that offenders tend to be gamblers. If there's a prospect they won't pay any price, the research is very clear there's more offending."

It has been common knowledge for sometime now that New Zealand police resources are spread thin. Policy or no policy the police are required to prioritise their time based on the seriousness of an offence.

The benefits of this policy for the police force are palpable. They will have more time and resources to do their job - prevent crime and road trauma, to enhance public safety and to maintain law and order. They will invest more energy in apprehending and convicting serious offenders.

There are also benefits for our legal system. Our courts are overrun with cases involving minor offenders. The warning policy will reduce the number of court appearances by tens of thousands each year providing more time for high priority cases.

Then there are the advantages for the taxpayer. Diverting tens of thousands of offenders from court cases and short prison sentences means a reduction in court and prison costs.

The main area of concern is whether a warning will serve as a serious deterrent for crime. There is also a potential for bias in leaving the decision of whether to press charges or issue a warning to the discretion of an individual police officer. The system may become a popular scapegoat for police to avoid paperwork and court time.

The new system rolls out nationwide, from this week. It is considered a controversial, but necessary move for police to free up valuable time and resources. Whether or not it serves the vision of safer communities together, only time will tell.

Credit to for this story.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stephen Hawking: God did not create the universe

British physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking has revealed that God was not needed for the creation of the universe.

Excerpts from his new book The Grand Design published in the British newspaper The Times on Thursday state that the 'Big Bang' was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. Hawking explores the possibilities of a new theoretical framework known as 'M-theory' to explain the creation of our universe and its laws of nature. He says, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist."

While M-theory attempts to whittle creation down to the laws of physics, it doesn't account for what, or who designed these laws. Nor does it explain the origins of space, time and the physical matter required for the Big Bang. If the theory is backed up by experiment it may be a scientific breakthrough, but will likely do little to disprove the existence of a creator.

It reminds me of the story about a scientist who approaches God and says, "We no longer have any need for you. We can create new life from the dust and we have a theory for every scientific phenomena, now why don't you just leave us alone." God listened patiently and when the scientist finished he said, "Alright then, how about we have a man making competition to settle this once and for all." The scientist, excited at the opportunity to prove his point agreed and reached down to grab a handful of dirt. God quickly interrupted, "No, no, no... Get your own dirt."

It's obviously intended as a joke, but the point is that science can never achieve the creation of something from nothing. We can never return to a state of 'nothingness' to even try.

Stephen Hawking's new book is the latest in a string of bestsellers with the primary objective of debunking the existence of God and the relevance of religion. The publicity surrounding the release of these controversial excerpts from The Grand Design may be nothing more than a marketing strategy to cash in on the popularity of anti-God books in recent years.

Hawking is by no means the first scientist to declare that it is unnecessary to invoke a supernatural creator to explain the Universe. It's not original, it's not certain, and even if true it should do little to shake authentic faith.

Credit to & for this story. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Obama declares an end to the war in Iraq

 ‘Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.’
-- Barack Obama

Barack Obama's presidential address on Tuesday evening brought an official end to a war that has lasted over seven years. 

Speaking from the same desk that former President George W. Bush used to declare war on Iraq in 2003, Obama announced that "Now, it is time to turn the page".

Obama pledged an end to the war as a presidential candidate in 2008, and in February 2009 outlined a strategy for the responsible removal of combat brigades from Iraq by August 31, 2010. 

The US mission in Iraq has now switched from combat to assistance with over 100, 000 troops being removed and hundreds of military bases closed or transferred to Iraqi authorities. US military numbers have been cut back to 50, 000 with the main objective of assisting Iraq's security forces and supporting its government and people. These troops are scheduled to return home at the end of 2011.

Almost a trillion dollars have been spent, and over 4,400 US troops, and at least 100, 000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion. A drastic sacrifice for a war fought on false pretenses, and with no plan.

The US invaded Iraq with the objective of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. This was achieved in 21 days of major combat operations after which George Bush said - "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished." However, the US had not made plans to re-establish political stability and as fighting escalated, a previously oppressed people enjoyed the ruined infrastructure and existential insecurity of their 'liberation.' Seven years, thousands of deaths, and billions of dollars later, not even Barrack Obama could embellish his end to the conflict with the words - 'mission accomplished.'

Perhaps this is why the sentiment towards the end of the war in Iraq is so underwhelming, and why the media have seemed to avoid paying lip-service to an event of international and historical significance. There is no symbolic 'handshake', cheer, or round of applause from the international community. It is an eerie silence. The kind of introspective stillness you get when you can't believe that 'something just happened.'

Iraq is still in an extremely fragile state. They are struggling to form a government and deadly violence remains common. The US invasion sparked civil war and the repercussions of this political and social division provide an unstable foundation on which to attempt to build democracy. Obama encourages political leaders in Iraq to - "Form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt, the Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States." - A feat much easier said than done.

While the US combat mission in Iraq is over, the real Operation Iraqi Freedom finally has the breathing space to begin.

Credit to and for this story. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The future of David Tua

The future of David Tua is in limbo following his underwhelming performance, and controversial draw against Monte Barrett last month. This fight was intended to propel Tua back onto the US boxing scene with the ultimate goal being a second shot at the heavyweight title. However, Tua failed to impress suffering the first knockdown of his career and clinching a contentious draw on the scorecards. This unexpected drawback on his road to glory has left many critics speculating about the future of New Zealand's boxing hero.

3 News ran a story on Friday (27.08.10) stating that negotiations were underway for Tua to fight four-time world champion Evander Holyfield in November. High-profile boxing commentator, and longstanding Tua supporter Colonel Bob Sheridan said in an interview - "It's in the negotiation stages right now, and I'm right in the middle of it... Holyfield and David Tua [are] two guys in similar stages of their careers. The winner of the bout will meet Vladamir Klitscho for the heavyweight championship - this is hot off the press stuff."

However, it was reported on Sunday (29.08.10) that Tua's global promoter Cedric Kushner, and the Tua camp in New Zealand have heard nothing of these negotiations. Kushner said, "I was just as surprised as everyone else. I don't know where that comes from", and claims that Bob Sheridan was "misquoted."

Tua is currently back in New Zealand determined to get his career back on track following his disappointing performance against Barrett. Kushner said - "I want to get David back into action. We have to work out a date and go from there". But, he was skeptical about the value of fighting Holyfield.

Should the fight go ahead at the speculated date of November 5, Holyfield will be 48 - 11 years older than Tua. However, despite his age Holyfield has remained active defeating South African boxer Francois Botha in April for the WBF heavyweight title. He now has the Klitscho brothers in his sights, and has even expressed interest in taking on David Haye for the WBA heavyweight championship.

When Tua got out-boxed and knocked down in the 12th round by Barrett, Bob Sheridan said what we were all thinking - "Are we seeing the end of the career of David Tua?" He did not box like a future world champion. He was frustrated and sloppy, and although he was battling a shoulder injury he did not perform with the conviction Tua is known for. He claims he is in the best shape of his life - his passion is revived, he's training hard, and he's in good physical condition. But, even if Tua upsets Holyfield, his promise of a title fight is likely to be against a much taller, much faster, much younger Vladamir Klitscho who has the most effective jab in heavyweight boxing since... Lennox Lewis.

There are currently conflicting stories surrounding the prospect of a Holyfield - Tua match-up, which is not unusual in the world of international fight promotion. Whether or not there has been any official discussion between the two camps is unclear, but the fact that the idea has even arisen suggests that it is a possibility.

Should the fight go ahead there will be a lot on the line for both men.  For Tua, it is his personal mission to have another shot at the world title - beating Holyfield will give him this opportunity. Losing to Holyfield will likely diminish Tua's hopes of ever competing at the top again. Holyfield is a man at the end of his career with an impressive legacy to uphold. He won't want to go out on a low and therefore, like Monte Barrett, will fight with the heart of a lion.

Two men with everything to fight for, and everything to lose. It may not be the safest path to glory for either either man, but who said boxing was supposed to be safe?

Credit to & for this story.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NZ name suppression laws challenged

Cameron Slater looking confident outside the Auckland District Court today

Controversial blogger Cameron Slater (of, is on trial today facing multiple charges of breaching name suppression orders.

Earlier in the year Mr Slater published suggestive images and encrypted posts on his site revealing the identities of suppressed defendants in high profile cases. Those identified include a former MP, a well known entertainer and a former Olympian.

Slater is known to be a staunch opponent of New Zealand's suppression laws and founded the anti-suppression group 'S.H.A.M.E' (Suppression Helps Abusers Make Excuses) with the purpose of making presentations to parliament to change our laws for more openness in our court system and advocating for better protection for victims.

The underlying consensus among anti-suppression supporters is that the New Zealand legal system favours offenders. Particularly when the offender is well-known with a reputation to uphold.

Not so long ago name suppression at any stage of a court proceeding was uncommon. The courts were more open to the media believing that they should operate in public and their activities should be freely reported on. Now, almost by habit, judges grant name suppression with little or no justification.

Perhaps the media have closed the doors on themselves by abusing the privilege in the past, or bringing the legal system into disrepute. But there is nothing defamatory about simply naming a defendant in a court case. It is only if they are found guilty of their crime that their name is tainted, and then it is only right for them to be held accountable for their actions.

Protecting defendants rights is a very kiwi 'PC' thing to do. We cling tightly to the notion of 'innocent until proven guilty' and celebrate the freedom of once convicted killer David Bain due to 'inconclusive' evidence.

However, the ones who deserve protection, and our patriotism are the victims of crime. Name suppression, whether automatic or requested, should not be withheld from victims. They are entitled to a normal life outside of the public eye. Cameron Slater proposes we "change the law to better tighten up protection for the victims".

It is convicted offenders that should be held liable for their crime. They do not deserve anonymity or to slip back into society like nothing ever happened. The retributive justice of crime is that the offender lives with the consequences of their actions, and it is the role of the courts to uphold this.

Cameron Slater will be defending his charges on the grounds that a blog is an online public forum. It is conversational, therefore the human right of freedom of speech applies.

As the issue of name suppression is blown out in the open it will be interesting to see where our justice systems' loyalties lie.

Credit to & for this story.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New liquor laws target youth

The government has unveiled its liquor law reform package with an obvious focus on youth drinking. Justice Minister Simon Power announced the plans this afternoon that cover - partially or completely - 126 of the 153 of the recommendations of the Law Commission's report on liquor laws.

Key changes include: (from

  • A split alcohol purchase age of 18 for bars and 20 for off-licences.
  • Banning the sale of pre-mixed RTDs that have more than 5 per cent alcohol or that contain more than 1.5 standard drinks.
  • Making it an offence for anyone other than a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to an under-18-year-old without a parent's or guardian's consent.
  • Allowing the Minister of Justice to ban alcohol products which are particularly appealing to minors or particularly dangerous to health. This is expected to apply to things like milk-based alcohol drinks or alcoholic ice-blocks.
  • Allowing local communities to decide on their own "alcohol plan" with details about the concentration, location, and opening hours of alcohol outlets to be included.
  • Default national opening hours of 7am - 11pm for off-licences and 8am - 4am for bars and clubs. Local alcohol plans can over-ride the hours, however, with longer or shorter hours if they wish.
  • Changing the definition of "a grocery store" to make it very hard for a dairy to get a liquor licence. 

There is a clear and deliberate focus on the problem of youth drinking with the assumption that limiting alcohol access and appeal is going to change the drinking culture. Whether the Government is naive, or this is simply a public spectacle to make it seem as though they are being proactive, it fails to address the issue at the heart of the problem - New Zealand culture.

Limited access to alcohol has never been a problem for minors before and new legislation is unlikely to change this. In my opinion there are four main factors that influence youth culture the most and they are:
  • Money
  • Media
  • Consequences
  • Adults
All of which the government have failed to address in the new liquor law reform package.

The package makes no mention of the Law Commission's proposals to increase liquor tax, as was done for tobacco in April, but it does state that the Government will investigate a minimum price regime. A rise in the purchase price of alcohol is going to hit youth where it hurts the most - in the pocket. The appeal of 'cheap n nasty' alcohol could be solved by eliminating the 'cheap' factor. Green Party MP Sue Kledgey said, "While we support the steps the Government is proposing to take and will be voting for the legislation, we will be fighting tooth and nail to amend and strengthen it - particularly around advertising and price - to make it more comprehensive." The main issue with this, of course, is that it also affects responsible drinkers who are destined to become innocent victims in any instance of liquor reform.

Advertising and popular media representations of alcohol consumption are also decidedly influential in shaping the mindset and behavior of youth culture. Currently, mainstream advertising glorifies alcohol associating it with sex, excitement and rebellion - particularly those targeted at a youth demographic. In the same way that skinny, air-brushed models on magazine covers create self-esteem and self-image issues among females, alcohol advertising contributes to the thinking and behaviour of our youth. In order for this to change, alcohol advertising needs to be regulated and new standards need to be implemented to counteract the damage that has already been done.

Another issue that was left out of the package was a proposal for harsher and stricter penalties for drunk and disorderly behaviour. On-the-spot fines, curfews, bans from clubs, medical bills and community service are all serious consequences that will eventually deter irresponsible drinking. Some 70 percent of accident and emergency hospital admissions are alcohol related. If the patient, rather than the taxpayer, was to foot the bill, not only would we save over $1 billion a year, but we may just see a shift towards a more responsible drinking culture.

Perhaps the most discernible influence on youth culture is that of the ones who raised it - adults. They have escaped remarkably unscathed from this proposed liquor reform, but they have a lot to answer for. Culture is something that is passed down from generation to generation, it doesn't evolve overnight, so the insinuation that New Zealand's drinking culture is primarily a 'youth' issue is unjustified. Our youth learned how to drink from their parents, their guardians - the various adults of influence in their life, and more often than not it is these same adults that supply our youth with alcohol. Until the older generation alter their attitude towards alcohol, we can more or less consider our youth a lost cause.

I agree that youth culture needs to be fiercely targeted in regards to liquor reform. They are the future adults, leaders and people of influence in our society. However, in order for significant cultural change to occur we require more than flimsy legislation enforced by smacks on the hand. 'Alcohol Action' spokesman Professor Doug Sellman, who is a National Addiction Centre director, said New Zealand is facing an alcohol crisis, and he likens the current response to "treating cancer with a couple of aspirin".

It is promising that the Government is making moves to combat our nations alcohol problem. However, the liquor law reform package as it stands is inadequate and is in need of serious reevaluation. Youth are just as much a problem as they are the solution.

Credit to, & for this story.
Related articles - Drink Driving - An Issue Of Conscience 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First New Zealand arrest for child sex tourism

In New Zealand the subject of 'child sex tourism' is swept so far under the carpet to the point that we have almost convinced ourselves it doesn't even exist. But, now that this issue has been exposed on our own back doorstep we are forced to confront the harrowing possibility that it is not an isolated case.

A 46 year old man was arrested in Auckland today facing charges relating to a child sex tourism operation. The arrest is the result of an eight month investigation into the man's activities co-ordinated by the Police Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ) unit, a specialist team set up in 2009 as part of a global task force focused on online child sexual exploitation. The man, who has interim name suppression, appeared in the Manakau district court today charged with organising and promoting child sex tours to South East Asia, and dealing in children for sexual exploitation - the first charges of this kind in New Zealand.

Child sex tourism is part of a multi-billion dollar global sex tourism industry and victimizes approximately 2 million children worldwide (over twice the child population of New Zealand). It involves 'tourists' who travel from their own country to another to engage in commercial sex acts with children. The crime is commonly fueled by weak law enforcement, corruption, the Internet, ease of travel, and poverty. Prospective holidays makers target CST (Child Sex Tourism) 'hotspots' such as Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil, Mexico and Kenya, where the exploitation of children is made easy by turbulent politics, unstable economies and high illiteracy / unemployment rates. Children are often lured away from broken homes by 'recruiters' who promise them jobs in a city and are then forced into prostitution. Sometimes, in sheer desperation for money, families will prostitute or even sell their own children into the sex trade.

Note: This video contains disturbing themes and content.

Commercially facilitated child abuse is a global tragedy. However, if there wasn't a global demand for organised pedophilia the problem wouldn't exist.

Given the choice, it is fair to assume most children would not sell their bodies, their innocence and their livelihood for the sexual gratification of a stranger (Of course there are exceptions when children volunteer themselves as a last resort source of income). But, the child sex 'tourists' actively pursue opportunities to engage in the sexual abuse of children. They choose to participate. It is highly illegal, strictly policed and severely punished in most of the developed world where a majority of these 'tourists' come from. But, somehow they think it's acceptable, a part of culture; but most importantly, they think they can get away with it in other countries - and they are.

The 46 year old Auckland motel manager arrested for his involvement in this industry is only the first to be uncovered in New Zealand. He was arrested only shortly before he was due to leave the country for Thailand - the #1 international hotspot for child sex tourism - where he would have likely participated in or helped facilitate the sexual exploitation of children even further. To the credit of New Zealand law enforcement, they implemented a thorough eight month investigation to gather sufficient evidence on this man, which shows they are taking this issue seriously. However, it is unlikely this is an isolated incident.

Awareness is the most effective tool we have in the prevention of this criminal activity and I feel as though the New Zealand media have failed to capitalise on the opportunity. With summer approaching travel plans are set in motion so now is the best time to give this issue attention. Child Sex Tourism is a growing industry because holiday makers think they can get away with it, they think it's underground and out of sight from the rest of society. However, if the media step up and shed some light on this stigmatised issue it just might, at the very least, lead one potential 'tourist' to question their actions. Even if that's all increased awareness ever achieves - one less 'tourist' equals at least one less case of child sex abuse. It's a vast improvement on doing nothing.

Credit to & for this story.

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