Gotingco case points to systemic failure of justice system


So the family of Blessie Gotingco have decided to sue the Department of Corrections over its botched handling of the man who attacked Mrs Gotingco. In an open letter to New Zealanders, Antonio Gotingco has pleaded for support as he and his family consider a court case for gross failure to protect Mrs Gotingco from Tony Robertson.

At so many different levels I see failure of the justice system in the case of Mrs Gotingco, who was brutally raped and murdered by a man who was well known to the Ministry of Justice before Mrs Gotingco was murdered. This is a man who would have been known to the Department of Corrections, to the Police and to the Courts. Whilst this is certainly not the first time the Department of Corrections or another part of the Ministry of Justice has failed in its duties, the fact that it is subject to this rare act of litigation, shows the gravity of the failure in this case.

To say that I am not surprised Mrs Gotingco’s family want to sue over the death of their mother, wife, possibly a sister and niece, is an understatement. For such systemic failure as that which we see here, I believe that they have every right to be that angry and determined to get justice. The system failed them. It is as simple as that. And this is how:

Tony Robertson had already done jail time. Previously he had gone to jail for attacking a 5 year old girl. As part of his terms of release he had to wear a bracelet on his ankle 24 hours a day so that his movements could be tracked. He also had an 8PM curfew after which time he had to be at home. 

Robertson’s previous offence showed a calculating person whose offending was wholly premeditated. To lure the girl he had pretended to be talking to the girl’s mother on the cellphone. Robertson was found by a Police officer who had gone to a waterfall carpark leaning over the girl. He pleaded not guilty and was sent to trial, where he was found guilty and jailed for 7 1/2 years.

Those who knew him found this impossible to reconcile with the Robertson they knew – a respect, generous type trying to rebuild his life. And yet at the same time there were some disturbing elements at work such as his constant need for a methamphetamine hit, the lack of a job despite efforts to find one. Robertson himself admitted to trying to keep a ready supply of drugs for him to smoke and his Grandfather said Robertson knew right from wrong, but had become a lost cause.

When Mrs Gotingco was attacked, Robertson initially ran her down in his B.M.W., and then drove her back to his apartment so that he would be compliant with his curfew. We can only imagine the violence that took place, though the pathologist suggested she had been raped and stabbed before dying. Mrs Gotingco’s body was then dumped.

What they did not know was that a psychologists report had been prepared, which painted a terrifying picture of a high risk criminal who would most likely re-offend and possibly commit worse crimes than those that had already been carried out.

Had people known what a ticking time bomb Tony Robertson was, perhaps Blessie Gotingco would be alive today. I wish her family all the best in whatever action they take.

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