Anger over youth's release for second time after alleged rape

By Simon O'Rourke

Matamata residents are angry at the release of a 16-year-old from police custody for the second time in recent weeks, after he allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl at the weekend while free on bail for another serious crime.

Hours after the 16-year-old's arrest for rape on Wednesday, a Hamilton Youth Court judge released him back into the community, despite police opposition to bail.

This drew stinging criticism yesterday from residents in Matamata, where the alleged sex crime took place.

NZ First MP Ron Mark, the party's law and order spokesman, said the justice system was ignoring the needs of victims and called for a harsher line to be taken against serial youth offenders.

The teenaged attacker was free on bail for an aggravated robbery and was awaiting sentence when on Saturday night he illegally left the address he had been ordered to stay at.

As police searched for the youth, a 15-year-old Matamata girl claims she was raped by him.

"When is the Youth Court going to take victims into account instead of worrying about the sensibilities of vicious young mongrels," Mr Mark said.

"To bail him to his home, where his family obviously doesn't give a damn and from where he already absconded at the weekend to allegedly commit rape, borders on the insane.

"I call aggravated robbery a serious crime, and yet this young man was still dealt with by the Youth Court, and was to be sentenced in the Youth Court, rather than being transferred to the District Court."

Detective Sergeant Rod Carpinter of Morrinsville CIB said the girl's family were too traumatised to speak of the ordeal, and had been advised not to speak publicly as the matter was before the courts.

Matamata-Piako District Mayor Hugh Vercoe said his understanding was that police were to appeal the bail decision.

"And I commend them on that, it's a matter of protecting the community."

The issue was "extremely frustrating", he said. "Matamata is a good little town, it does not have a lot of crime and is a very tight-knit sort of place.

"What does somebody have to do until the court system denies their release on bail?"

Matamata dairy owner Jim Leadbeater said the alleged crime was despicable in that the youth should never have been free. He blamed the judiciary and Labour Government for taking a "soft line" on crime, and said the motive was merely to keep prison numbers down.

Another resident, Peter Jenkin, said Matamata was a small community where "everybody knows everybody", and predicted a backlash against the accused.

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