Judges worried by violence in prisons

Judges were worried by the level of violence in prisons, said a Christchurch judge as she imposed a 15-year term on a sex offender who has already had one serious beating, and is expecting another.

“It’s worrying to judges, and it should be worrying to the community as well,” said Judge Jane Farish as she jailed the 50-year-old who needed surgery after his first prison bashing.

Supporting defence counsel Tim Mackenzie – the man represented himself at his trial – told the man’s Christchurch District Court sentencing session that he had been assaulted in prison.

Mr Mackenzie said: “He will now be moving into the sentenced prisoners’ area and he has some pretty grave issues about who runs that area and some follow-up that will occur. That’s part of life in prison.”

Judge Farish said it was “quite frankly appalling”. She understood there were good reasons why someone in the offender’s position would not make a complaint about the assault.

“It is appalling that within the prison environment, someone can be very seriously assaulted without any consequences or remedies,” said the judge. “It speaks volumes about how we incarcerate people and what’s happening within the prison system.”

Keeping the man segregated from all other prisoners would not be good for him in the long term.

The man does not have name suppression, but his name cannot be reported because the victim was his wife of 26 years.

The man’s first jury trial had to be aborted because of issues about his legal representation, and he then pleaded guilty during his second trial after his wife and two other witnesses had given evidence.

He had admitted kidnapping her, representative charges of raping her, sexually violating and indecently assaulting her, injuring her with intent to injure, and a breach of prison release conditions.

The offending spanned 21 years but Judge Farish said that period included times when the family unit functioned fairly well.

The couple had four children, who have all been taken into care because of the violence in the relationship and the drug taking. The couple were dependent on drugs, and the woman was working as a sex worker to pay for the drugs. She was also taking sleeping tablets.

The woman gave evidence of rapes. She also told of sexual assaults as she slept, and of repeated threats. She believed she would die on a night when the man threatened to place a plastic bag over her head. She sometimes complained to the police, but then withdrew the complaints or did not follow through – until two years ago when the man was arrested. He has now been in custody on remand for 16 months.

The 51-year-old’s victim impact statement was read in court, telling of “physical, sexual, verbal, and psychological abuse” during the marriage.

“He has controlled all aspects of my life,” she said. “I was extremely frightened of him and truly believed he would one day kill me.”

Even after his sentencing, she would still be in fear because she believed he could make arrangements to hurt her from inside prison.

The man blamed her for everything bad that had happened to him. Years of psychological abuse had “ground” her down to nothing. “I am broken because of you,” she said.

“I wanted him to stop, and I wanted no female to be in this position ever again,” she said. She was now getting her life and identity back. “I now live with hope and not fear.”

Judge Farish jailed the man for 15 years, and imposed a non-parole term of seven years six months before he can apply for release to be considered by the Parole Board.

She said he had a “difficult personality type” which posed difficulties for long term treatment, but she hoped he would get psychological assistance during the sentence.

She read him a first-strike warning under the system that imposes heavier penalties on repeat violent offenders.