Is race a factor in the NZ legal system? The answer seems to be yes. In a couple of recent high profile cases where the victim is an ethnic minority, killers have received extraordinarily light sentences. In early 2009 Tane wrote:
Bruce Emery’s sentence of just four years and three months on a reduced charge of manslaughter for chasing 15 year old Pihema Cameron 300 metres down the street and stabbing him to death with a knife is a stark reminder of the institutional racism that still exists in this country. Let’s not pretend for a second that Emery would have got off so lightly if he was an unemployed Maori and his victim a middle class Pakeha child, tagger or not.
Now we have another case with similar overtones. Yesterday, Scoop reported (on a 95bFM interview):
Selwyn Manning talks to Paul Deady about how the Indian community in New Zealand is appalled at the verdicts handed down to Manurewa liquor-store owner Navtej Singh’s killers. The offender who pulled the trigger, leaving Mr Singh to die in his wife’s arms, was convicted of murder, but all five of his co-offenders received aggravated robbery convictions… This appears contrary to recent case law precedence and the Indian community wants to know why.
Those who have been following this and similar cases see a clear pattern emerging:
Indian Kiwis hurt by a seemingly warped New Zealand justice system
The verdict of the jury (and the court) in the murder trial of the killers of Navtej Singh, Manurewa liquor store owner who was shot in his store last year in a gang robbery, has sent wrong signals about the fairness and the consistency of the justice system in New Zealand. …
Members of Auckland’s Indian community are also confused and perhaps perturbed by the justice system which appears to be giving a signal that the killers of Indians have an easy exit from the justice system. As a journalist who has covered three recent violent deaths and funerals of Indians in the local media, I can appreciate such concerns which have high elements of merit in them. …
President of a Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha, (a Hindu religious group), Jayati Prasad strongly deplored the law and order in the country. He claimed that democracy and equal rights were only confined to paper while in reality, the situation reeked of racism, discrimination and lopsided treatment, and questioned why others in the group escaped serious conviction. He called it a shameful judgement and condemned the action of the police that led to Navtej’s death. …
Racism within the legal system is just one aspect of racism within our society generally. In other news today:
Racial discrimination at worrying levels: watchdog
The Human Rights Commission says racial discrimination and harassment in New Zealand is worrying. In the annual Race Relations Report released today, the commission says it received 1253 race-related complaints and inquiries last year, which is “significantly higher” than in previous years. Complaints related to race accounted for 55.4 per cent of all discrimination approaches.
“Data on racial discrimination and harassment from 2009 are a cause for concern,” said Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres. Also on the rise is public perceptions of discrimination against ethnic minorities, especially Asians. …
Now is not the time for the legal system to be sending all the wrong messages.