Editorial: Living in fear second suffering

By Andrew Austin

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One of the terrible injustices of most justice systems is that often victims and their families continue to be victimised long after the original crime has been committed. Often this is unintended, but it still happens.

Take the Colleen Burrows case as an example. We ran a front page story on Saturday about Colleen's mother, Ida Hawkins, saying she was terrified that the Mongrel Mob member jailed for her daughter's vicious murder 25 years ago was going to be released from prison yesterday.

Te Hei, now aged in his mid-40s, was found guilty of savagely kicking Colleen, a 16-year-old Napier schoolgirl, and running her over with a car on the banks of the Tutaekuri River in 1987.

Her body was unrecognisable when police found her.

It was a particularly nasty crime that shocked the region and put Te Hei behind bars. His prison term was extended by 12 years for attempting to murder a gang prospect.

You can tell that Ida Hawkins is really scared. She was only recently told that Te Hei was going to be let out on day release (for five hours) with no guards - only a sponsor.

Ms Hawkins, who now lives in Wairoa, said a gang associate had yelled threats at her, which increased her fear of Te Hei's release. He was denied parole in February, but the Parole Board has taken the next steps to his freedom. Predictably the Sensible Sentencing Trust is not happy with the effect all this is having on Ms Hawkins and spokesman Garth McVicar said the organisation would lobby the Parole Board and the Government to make sure that when Te Hei was released properly, it was not into the Hawke's Bay area.

Twenty-five years is a very long time, but yet poor Ms Hawkins has to relieve her daughter's brutal murder all over again like it was yesterday. Added to this, she now has the very real worry that Te Hei or his associates may harass or harm her or her extended family.

I am sure Colleen is not far from her thoughts every day and I am sure the sadness in her heart is still there. But how can Ms Hawkins ever move on without constantly being reminded about how her daughter's young life was savagely snuffed out?

The problem, as some will argue, is that when criminals have served their time, they have served their time and by law they need to be released. Those are the laws of the land and need to be respected. If the voting public of New Zealand want to change those laws, they need to get the politicians they elect to do so. Maybe those who say our prison sentences are too short have a point.

All I know is that it does not seem right that mothers like Ida Hawkins, who have been through incredible heartache, have to now live in fear.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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