“Hard childhoods” get sentence reductions, as if our justice was not flexible enough

As if our justice system wasn’t flexible enough already, I see they are now giving further sentence reductions if you had a difficult childhood.

“Mongrel Mob members in lucrative drug ring get reduced prison sentence for horrific childhoods,” read a headline yesterday. The story went on to say that “Two Mongrel Mob members sitting near the top of a sophisticated drug ring have been jailed after admitting their roles in the commercial scale manufacture and supply of methamphetamine across the Waikato. Both men received deep reductions in their prison sentences for admitting their guilt and the “horrible” circumstances of their childhood, the trauma of which a judge ruled led to their gang affiliation and their offenses criminals later in life.”

So, let’s clear things up. These two members of the Mongrel Mob gang “oversaw the daily manufacturing” and trafficking of meth, in “clandestine labs”, were placed in the second highest category of meth-related offenses based on the amount of drugs and yet they saw their sentences reduced, because their childhood was rough. First, how do you define gross? And who defines it? And is it any different if you get, like these two did, a “cultural connection,” as opposed to just a psychological connection? Are cultural reports new? Who is entitled to it? And then, if you meet this apparently new criterion of “difficult childhood”, by how much is your sentence reduced? And how rough does it have to be for it to be markedly reduced?

In this case, one of the offenders had his sentence reduced by 25% for pleading guilty early, “an additional 25% reduction for his relevant background i.e. childhood trauma”, “and 5 additional % to help him readjust”. So, in total, he got a 55% sentence reduction. He was to serve more than 12 years, he will be released in 5 years. The other offender also got the 25% reduction for the guilty plea, and an “additional 15% reduction for his dysfunctional childhood, and another 15% for rehabilitation”. He will serve 4 and a half years instead of 10 years 6 months.

So what is the message we are sending here? The more horrible your childhood, the less time you will spend in prison. The more you can prove things were for you, the more it benefits you later. And is this the case for everyone? If you grew up in a middle-class money laundering business with a family of wealthy fraudsters, do you show leniency later in life because that’s all you knew? Or does this only apply to gang members?

Does a difficult childhood have to mean gang affiliations, or can it also include sexual parasites and abusers? If you are the child of a rapist and you continue to commit rape, is there any reduction because committing rape is all you knew? Where do we draw this line? There’s something fishy about that that doesn’t sit well with me from a victims perspective, from a police perspective that works so hard to get these convictions in the first place, from a global message perspective that we send as a company.

What we’re saying is if you’re a meth gang member, you won’t be locked up too long if you can do a culture report and prove that your childhood was tough. Judges have started to be afraid to put people in jail, they find too many excuses to keep them out, and we wonder why the gang and crime problems are increasing in this country.