Judge slams government ‘anti-prison’ policy

by Samantha Woodhill18 Jan 2016
A New Plymouth judge has lashed out at the government over ‘anti-prison’ policy.

According to Stuff, Judge Allan Roberts criticised the move by the government, saying the “government direction” to probation officers is to recommend penalties other than prison in order to keep offenders out of jail.

On Friday, Roberts send Joshua Aaron Salvador Edwards, 26, to jails for four and a half months after he failed to comply with a community service court sentence.  A report by Edwards’ probation officer had recommended that he be given electronic monitoring for breaching his community work, a sentence he received for driving while disqualified and failing to stop.

“They wish to see the courts make greater use of sentences other than imprisonment,” Roberts said.

“That's why we are getting reports that sometimes don't have an appropriate penalty alongside them.

“They underpitch, deliberately so.”

Edwards’ lawyer Jo Woodcock defended the probation officer’s report, recommending that Edwards receive a lesser punishment.

“Sir, you say that the probation office is deliberately underpitching, but in my submission they are recognising that a sentence of community detention or home detention could be offered to this man,” he said.

But Roberts said two of the three reports recommended imprisonment, only the third recommending community detention as an alternative.  He deemed jail an appropriate punishment as Edwards had only completed 66.5 hours of the 300 hours he was sentenced to back in April.

“Court sentences are not optional,” Roberts said.

“On the face of things you don't pay fines, you don't do community work, you are non-compliant with supervision demands… yet here I am asked to send you to community detention.

“I'm intending to jail you. I am not intending to impose a monitored sentence on you in hope that you can show greater application to those sentences than you have previously.”

Edwards was caught driving while disqualified last September.  He continued to drive for 24km when police tried to pull him over, by following him with blue and red flashing lights and a siren.