Son asked to 'soften' comments to killer

By Juliet Rowan

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The son of murdered Tokoroa teacher Lois Dear is angry he has been asked to tone down a victim impact statement he plans to read to her killer in court.

Kevin McNeil took two days off work to write the statement, which he says he will try to read unaltered to his mother's murderer, Whetu Te Hiko, at his sentencing in the High Court at Hamilton on Friday.

"It's quite emotional, trying to write stuff down, then you get it thrown back in your face saying it's no good. Well, this is from me, this is how I feel," Mr McNeil said.

"Do you want the true version or a bullshit version?"

He said he submitted the statement to police but was told to tone it down because the judge and prosecution would not accept comments he had made about Te Hiko or the justice system.

In the statement, Mr McNeil said his 66-year-old mother was treated with no dignity when she was killed in her classroom and left with her underwear down, and he hoped Te Hiko was treated with no dignity by the system.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust said Mr McNeil was not alone in being asked to change his statement and increasing controls were being put on what victims could write.

The detective dealing with Mr McNeil's statement was overseas yesterday and the Crown prosecutor would not comment.

Mr McNeil said police and Victim Support had both suggested changes to his statement but he would not read an amended version.

"If I can't express the hurt and the hatred towards this person and express my views towards the system for the last five minutes of my mother's traumatic end of life, what's the point of doing it all?

"People who aren't victims are trying to tell us what to say."

Mr McNeil did not want to criticise the police, who he said had done "a brilliant job" on the case and were likely acting on orders from above, but he said they had originally told him he was able to write whatever he liked in the statement. They also advised him to submit it to Victim Support, which he said he had done, but he was unhappy with changes it recommended as well.

Victim Support said last night that it was not involved with writing Mr McNeil's statement.

Mr McNeil has now submitted his original statement directly to the court and says if he is not allowed to read it, he will give it to the media.

Te Hiko has pleaded guilty to the July 16 murder of Ms Dear.

The Victims' Rights Act 2002 sets out the legal guidelines for victim impact statements and says they should include information on any physical injury or emotional harm suffered by the victim; any loss or damage to property and any other effects of the offence on the victim.

The Ministry of Justice said the statements should not include what the victim thinks the sentence should be.

Victim Support is often asked by police to help compile impact statements and said its guidelines showed the statement should be about the impact on the victim, "not what the victim thinks should happen to the offender".

The guidelines said victims had the right to "record the impact or effects of their encounter with the judicial system" but such comments needed to be worded carefully to ensure they were not a directive to the judge or a criticism of the system or an individual.

It was considered appropriate to say, for example, "I now feel constantly unsafe and would like processes put in place to protect me".

An inappropriate statement would be, "The offender is beyond help and should never be let out of prison."

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said victim impact statements gave victims their one opportunity to express the impact of a crime on them, and they should not be asked to change them.

"It's undermining the whole evolution of victims' rights. The concern for us is obviously the anxiety and frustration caused to the victim by once again being dictated to regarding what they can and can't say."

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