Moving day to remember crime victims


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Napier's unique role in crime and social justice thinking enters a possible new era today as representatives of groups often seen as sparring partners take to the soapbox in support of a national day to remember victims.

The occasion is the second White Heart Remembrance, promoted by the family of Napier man Philip Cowan, believed to have been a victim of a drugs scene killing in 2001.

Lunch-hour commemorations will be held today in Napier, Auckland and Wellington, with representatives of both the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the Napier Pilot City Trust among the speakers.

The event was staged for the first time a year ago in Napier, with missing Mr Cowan's father, Simon Cowan, saying the White Heart Trust hoped it would be held on September 25 each year.

Yesterday, Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman Garth McVicar said: "We think this is a win-win for all concerned, and it is our sincere hope that a political party will advocate 25th September to become a day that New Zealanders can remember those who have lost their lives in some random act of violence."

Pilot City Trust chairman Martin Williams, whose organisation is changing its name to Whakakotahitanga Community Solutions following a decision at its annual meeting on Saturday, when Sensible Sentencing's victims right conference was also taking place in Napier, said there seemed to be a consensus in the organisations' goals of trying to put a stop to the tragedies of the varying forms of violence.

"It's just a matter of how we go about it," he said, adding that in his speech at the commemoration in Napier (the Marine Parade Soundshell), where Simon Cowan will also speak, he would be making the point that "to make any sense of these sufferings we need to get to the underlying causes".

Sensible Sentencing will be represented at Auckland's Aotea commemoration by Ruth Money, a long-time advocate for victims rights in the justice system, while Tracey Marceau, mother of murdered Christie Marceau, will be among the speakers, along with Philip Cowan's brother, Hamish.

Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine will address the third commemoration at Wellington's Midland Park.

Philip Cowan had been a promising student at Victoria University's design school, but dropped-out as he became more and more involved in the drugs scene.

While his body was never found, three men were charged with being involved in his murder, but they were freed after their trial was aborted part-heard because of legal issues.

His family's soul-searching included examining how Philip Cowan and those with whom he associated became involved in the drugs scene, and deciding to do what they could to help prevent similar tragedies, including suicide.

The White Heart Remembrance commemorations start at midday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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