Sroubek must go now, Jacinda


Dear Prime Minister

Re: Karel Sroubek

I am writing this to you regarding the activities of Czech national Karel Sroubek.

You are as well aware as I am that lying to border officials or any officials for that matter is a serious offence. Mr Karel Sroubek would have been aware of it himself when he approached New Zealand border officials for the first time back in 2003 that he must be honest with the authorities.

As we have now seen that was not the case. Mr Sroubek has conducted himself in a way that opens valid questions about his intentions. He claimed to be getting away from corrupt Czech authorities and that his life would be in danger were he to go back. He arrived on a false passport under the name Jan Antolik and was granted residency in 2008. He built a new life as a kick boxer, a gang associate – something that would immediately generate police interest – and as a businessman importing drink.

Yet Mr Sroubek continued to commit offences. He was caught importing 5kg of MDMA, which is used to make ecstasy and sentenced to 5 years and 9 months. A Parole Board hearing in October declined him release from prison, saying his story was long winded and manifestly untruthful.

Now, I have no idea what you heard or when you heard it. I am trusting that you have been and will continue to be totally honest about Mr Sroubek and the allegations surrounding him. I am trusting that Mr Lees-Galloway was totally truthful in his conduct as the Minister responsible in this matter so far and that he, like you, will continue to be totally honest about what has happened and is going to happen. New Zealanders have been quite clear that they are not impressed with this case. As Prime Minister you told New Zealanders to read between the lines. They did and found that they have doubts about the whole case.

Mr Lees-Galloway sent Mr Sroubek a letter stating the conditions of his and warned Mr Sroubek. The warning was that should evidence of activities contrary to what the Minister had been told come to light, his residency would be void and he would be potentially eligible for deportation again.

I accept that when people leave countries where they allege persecution one has to consider the severity of the danger they are in. I accept that hasty departures in such situations mean one might not have had time to get their immigration documentation in order.

But as a New Zealand citizen, tax payer and law abiding person I want to be very clear with you and your Government, including Mr Lees-Galloway now. Mr Sroubek had had multiple chances to come clean about his activities and history in past brushes with immigration authorities. Mr Lees-Galloway gave Mr Sroubek a final chance to come  clean. He has failed to do so.

Mr Sroubek has had his chances. He lied multiple times. He has committed crimes serious enough to give him significant jail time and the Parole Board in October declined his release How and why would New Zealanders, the authorities or the Government of New Zealand want to trust him now?

Deport him. That is all.

I thank you for your co-operation on this matter.

 

Inconvenient facts undermine all sides in Karel Sroubek case


An array of facts have come to light that could be considered politically inconvenient to all sides in the case of Karel Sroubek, a Czech national who has been convicted of drug smuggling, and quite bizarrely allowed to remain in New Zealand as resident. The revelation that new information has come to light on the case, has caused the Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway to immediately review the case.

National Party leader Simon Bridges says that Mr Lees-Galloway should quit his Ministerial portfolio’s as he has shown himself to be unfit to make an appropriate decision.

Mr Bridges omits to acknowledge that one of Mr Lees-Galloway’s predecessors, Dr Jonathan Coleman, former National Party M.P., and one time Minister of Immigration in 2011 permitted Mr Sroubek to enter New Zealand then. Dr Coleman most probably knew of his circumstances,

Mr Sroubek claims that the Czech police attitude to him endangers his safety and that corruption in the Czech police force meant it is more appropriate to flee to a foreign jurisdiction (New Zealand). He did this on a false passport. He then got convicted for importing $375,000 worth of MDMA which is used to make Ecstasy. Mr Sroubek also has had several brushes with New Zealand Police. All of this he has admitted.

However Mr Lees-Galloway told Parliament this afternoon that more information has come to light which he is reviewing with urgency.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told people to read between the lines on Mr Sroubek’s case.

The people did read between the lines and the overwhelming majority think a big mistake was made trusting the story Mr Sroubek offered. Other than Mr Lees-Galloway and his colleagues including Ms Ardern, I have yet to see anyone write in defence of Mr Sroubek.

Mr Lees-Galloway, tried to be honest with Parliament by immediately informing it of new information this afternoon. In doing so, he was trying to repair some of the damage tha would have been caused when this all went public several days ago.

Except that the new information – should it further implicate Mr Sroubek – will in the minds of New Zealanders make Mr Lees-Galloway’s decision making look like the shambles it has been. How could they have confidence in him after that?

Let us admit this much now. No one at this rate is going to come out of it squeaky clean, especially given that ever since Mr Lees-Galloway told New Zealand that he was approving residency for this convicted criminal, the public reaction has been overwhelmingly hostile for very obvious reasons. Mr Sroubek would have an almost impossible task finding work, establishing himself as a reputable person and his nature suggests that more brushes with the blue arm of the law in New Zealand are a certainty.

New Zealand should save itself from a potentially messy and very costly situation now by ending Mr Sroubek’s residency and deporting him forthwith. There is no other way this can end appropriately.

Iain Lees-Galloway’s big mistake


Recently a case involving a Czech national convicted on drug smuggling charges came to light. It did so because Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway decided that the claim by Karel Sroubek, who was convicted of importing $375,000 in drugs, that he faced undue danger if deported back to the Czech Republic was indeed credible.

Mr Sroubek was due to have been deported after finishing his sentence at Auckland South Prison. Instead Mr Lees-Galloway has decided Mr Sroubek shall under “strict” conditions be allowed residency instead.

Perhaps Mr Lees-Galloway thought he was being sensible. Perhaps he thought he was doing New Zealand’s humanitarian reputation a favour. Perhaps he even thought there would somehow be a downside to not letting Karel Sroubek in.

Whatever the case – and perhaps Czech officials were corrupt, or otherwise not able to be relied on to properly handle the case against Mr Sroubek – the risks are in the public perception too high to let him stay. In my assessment the “strict” conditions that Mr Lees-Galloway put on him are laughable and if Mr Sroubek really is to stay here, they need to be tightened drastically. He has the following conditions imposed on him by order of Mr Lees-Galloway as Minister of Immigration:

  1. No criminal offending in New Zealand or elsewhere in the next five years*
  2. No fraudulent use of ID in the next five years
  3. Not to provide misleading information or conceal information from the authorities

*Wow. Not doing something people should not be doing anyway? WOW!!!! I mean really???

IF those are serious conditions, then I guess the following ones that I think are more appropriate would be considered draconian. Yet I think there are probably many New Zealanders who think even my conditions are lenient and in some respects, they are probably right.

At the very least the following conditions should be imposed in addition to the ones that actually were:

  1. Mr Sroubek be restricted to a particular police monitored address
  2. Have a tracking bracelet
  3. Report to the local police station until otherwise advised – say once a week
  4. Failure to comply with any one or more of these voids the residency and unless it is found that Mr Sroubek’s life is in immediate danger, are grounds for deportation

Right now, I am not in the camp of Mr Lees-Galloway. The Minister does have explaining to do to Parliament about the conditions that Mr Sroubek is subject to. The Minister should take counsel on the matter, if for no other reason than because the person concerned is subject to very serious offences that in some national jurisdictions include the death penalty. And the Prime Minister would be well advised to stand him down if he does not.

Tackling crime in New Zealand


We have seen the news on the television often enough – a dairy being held up by touths who make off with cash and cigarettes; methamphetamine making businesses busted; someone murdered. We have had our moment of rage at the offender – and possibly the justice system for other reasons – sympathized with the family of the victims. Some of us might have gone on to social media and vented. But having released our anger and shown appropriate sympathy, what do we as New Zealanders do next to tackle crime?

For a lot of people it ends there. They change the subject, or go find something constructive to do like help their kid with homework or put the washing on the line and why not?

But not for all. I am one. For me if it is the latest in a string of incidents, it might inspire me to write a blog article such as this one about tackling crime. Or if there is public law changes open for submission on something related to reducing criminal offending, I will look at the documents available at the Parliament submissions web page and see if it is something I am interested in making a submission to.

My reasoning is simple: to make New Zealand as good as it can be I need to have an active involvement in the available processes that allow public input into policy making.

I think New Zealanders are not where either National or Labour would want to place them on justice and criminal offending.I see a number of separate groupings of people in terms of the approach New Zealand should take in dealing with crime:

  1. There is a significant portion of the population that want tighter sentencing. They look to people like National leader Simon Bridges or Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar for leadership, expecting them to advocate for tougher sentencing laws. I am not in that group. This group would have supported the proposed large prison at Waikeria, southwest of Te Awamutu.
  2. There is another group built around Labour and the Greens, which advocate for reform. They want to see the number of prisoners decrease, which I think most New Zealanders probably do, but taking a softly-softly approach on prisoners by looking at their mental health and backgrounds. I am not in this group, though some of their ideas are good.
  3. I think I belong to a third group that wants to examine whether current “system” – prisons, justice, and Police – are working as they should. My impression is that the justice system is failing to make full use of the range of sentencing ordnance it has at its disposal; that a lot of crime would stop if we permitted medicinal cannabis and banned synthetic cannabis.

But how do we tackle crime? A lot of the existing crime in New Zealand is for a purpose – serious crimes such as stealing cigarettes to order for the black market or drug smuggling, manufacturing to pay bills and/or drug debts can be put down to filling a need. Vandalism, attacks on people might be for the thrill of attacking in a violent or destructive way.

An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach is only helpful in dealing with all those already in prison (9,000 plus) is the best way of describing the current mentality in terms of constructing prisons here.. It fails to deal with those who might be out of prison, are otherwise clean and are trying to deal with the next phase in life – re-establishing oneself as a person. This group are particularly vulnerable as they might have lost their social networks, will be out of a job and not be likely to have much if any money. They are also potentially the most dangerous because a failure to catch quickly means a reversion back to their criminal past might be more likely than people will admit.

Per the idea of an ambulance being best at the top of the cliff, the gains for society by identifying those with criminal pasts and seeking to address the issues that made them start committing crime in the first place is a major deal. Some might come from broken families where no respect for the law was instilled in people. Others might might have come from backgrounds involving narcotics and dabbled in it, found it too powerful to ignore and got dragged under.

Whatever the case, examining how such circumstances can lead to criminal offending and seeking to address them using research based policy is the way forward. If we stop deluding ourselves about how well the “system” works – or does not work.

Three strikes law on its third strike


Minister of Justice Andrew Little has announced his intention to scrap the notorious “Three Strikes” legislation in New Zealand that was introduced by the previous National-led Government. The law change, which is intended to address the soaring rate of incarceration in New Zealand, has been met with a guarded response with some wondering what would replace it; others bemoaning its impending demise; still more quietly welcoming it.

And almost immediately, the National Party announced that it would immediately reinstate any such laws, immediately showing a classic case of reactionary politics, whilst failing to supply an adequate explanation.

I personally support the repeal. When I first heard about it just before the 2008 election, I thought such sentencing power would make prisoners think twice for committing their offences. A decade later and I have swung 180º and concluded that it needs to go.

For example let us suppose a person was involved in a car jacking and then an armed robbery, within a short space of time. Several years later during which time no other criminal activity happens Person A is caught breaking into a car. Because of his prior offences Person A is immediately sentenced to 25 years jail. Such a case happened one time a couple of decades ago in Washington State, where

Whilst on the count of two violent crimes and a lesser crime Person A should have already gone to jail, sending Person A to jail for 25 years using the third crime as a trigger is disproportionately severe. Why? Because thousands of cars are stolen every year and many of the perpetrators are not caught. But also a relatively minor crime does not justify occupying a prison cell for 25 years – save that for a murderer, or some other serious offender. Reparation to the victim, plus paying for any damage repairs and a month in home detention should be adequate.

At the other end of the scale, one might argue that due to a well noted inability and/or unwillingness of the judges of New Zealand to send criminals to jail and having a Parole Board that often makes incorrect decisions, does not assist the course of justice. New Zealand judges are notorious for making weak judgements in cases where either a top of the range fine and/or a lengthy spell in prison was the expectation of the New Zealand public when they examine the case.

There are good reasons to replace the Three Strikes law in New Zealand.

  1. The evidence from overseas is that it does not work – assaults in some places have increased because prisoners doing mandatory life prison time for serious offences know they are going to be in jail for the rest of their lives, so what do they have to lose from attacking a police officer or prison warden?
  2. The judge is supposed to be the one exercising discretion in the court house – how is making them hand down a mandatory life sentence for a third serious offence when reasonable law might justify only 10 years jail?
  3. Why are we copying the United States? Since when did American criminal law work effectively in New Zealand – Three Strikes is a quintessential American law. What is so hard about New Zealand law written by and for New Zealanders?
  4. The cost! We cannot afford a multi-billion dollar mega prison when the way the law is currently structured the rate of jailing is at an all time high.

So, I welcome Mr Little’s announcement. However I think I fit in best with the group of New Zealanders wondering what would replace it. Simply repealing it because it is an A.C.T. Party piece of legislation  is not enough and smacks of ideology. But will Mr Little enact the necessary wider ranging reform that is needed? It remains to be seen.