Editorial: Inquiry long time coming

By Doug Laing

It's a grim fact, and realisation, that following Friday's jailing of a child-abusing sex-offender who is now almost 85 years old, two of the oldest people now in New Zealand jails, both for possibly the most despicable type of crimes, were both sentenced in courts in Napier.

Avoiding going down any paths which might lead to the identification of victims - which would be adding injury to insult - it can be taken as read these were Hawke's Bay offences.

But they're certainly not the first, and, tragically, they won't be the last.

There are far, far, far too many of them, so many that those with length of service in the courtrooms of the region wonder from time to time, albeit cynically, if not being involved in the abuse of young people is actually normal.

Fortunately, repetitive exposure to this issue generally steels the bit-players around the system to do whatever they can to make sure it doesn't happen again. Unfortunately, that generally means acceding to the general will of the people to send the filthy sod to jail as quickly as possible - forever, if possible.

There is, however, a certain amount of trauma associated with watching these events retold. Amid it is some realisation that it is likely the causes of what really is the appalling society problem - what some people are prepared to do to others - have a background in trauma, aggravated by the extent or regularity of it.

Because the tendency is to close one book when an offender is finally locked away and simply move on to another, the impacts on anyone other than the physical victim - the complainant - are a bit of a hidden secret.

On one hand, it's because we're supposed to be all strong enough to face this, but on the other because to try to find possible reason or explanation - not to be confused with excuses - invites inference that the thinker is a sympathiser.

Risk of derision might make it easy to ask: "Why bother?"

There appears to have been very little which examines backgrounds of offenders with a view to seeing if there are factors society should tackle in the hope of making sure there are fewer offenders and fewer offences, so that there will no longer be the growing statistics which have motivated multimillionaire Owen Glenn to put his money where the politicians mouths are and initiate a major inquiry.

The website of the The Glenn Inquiry says its goal is to "develop an evidence-based, solution-focused blueprint for addressing child abuse and domestic violence in New Zealand".

"If all political parties agree to work together to implement the resulting blueprint, it will establish New Zealand as a world leader in this field," it continues. "In fact, it's likely to attract major interest globally as this approach doesn't appear to have been undertaken before."

People are invited to share their experiences, which, depending who responds of course, may start to indicate who is more likely to end up in jail, and who is more likely to end up with a doctorate and become boss of the World Bank.

For example, what likelihood is there of someone succeeding in life if their family, as if by design, traverses tragedy after tragedy, in the context of land loss, deprivation of wealth or disempowerment, the Great Depression, the earthquake, the wars, lesser capability of recovery, mass job loss, family break-up, family penal incarceration, poverty, lost educational opportunity ... interposed with more frequent premature death among family and friends in the family, by illness, accident, or suicide?

Conversely, what likelihood is there of a person ending up in jail in a family which has endured little or any of the above?

The opportunity to participate should be grasped eagerly by anyone who wants to get rid of child abuse and domestic violence, and the consequences thereof, by means other than simply nailing the coffin of those who have already transgressed.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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