Andrew Dickens is a Newstalk ZB host and presenter of Sunday Cafe,
9am-noon Sundays, on Newstalk ZB.
I've often said who'd be a judge. Damned for being too harsh or damned for being too lenient.
The application if justice seems simple but is a very difficult thing, which is why we talk about the wisdom of Solomon. He was the third king of Israel and famous for his judgments in a difficult case
The best-known story of his wisdom is when two women claimed to be the mother of a child. Solomon commanded the child be cut in half and shared between the two. One woman promptly renounced her claim, proving that she would rather give up the child than see it killed. Solomon declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother.
Might not fly these days but it's a good story nonetheless.
I was thinking about justice when I heard the story of Vincent Skeen, cleared of the murder of Luke Tipene but convicted of manslaughter. A jury decided this. First, they had to say Skeen was not guilty of murder. And that was a bit of a kick in the guts.
Skeen was 16 and at a Halloween party in Grey Lynn and got involved in a fight over a girl. Tipene came over to defend a mate and got in a fight with Skeen. Luke was a promising league player and bigger than Skeen and knocked him down a couple of times. Skeen went looking for a weapon, found a smashed bottle and then stabbed Luke in the neck causing a 10-12 cm wound that killed Luke four hours later.
To prove murder you need intent, and at first glance, the fact that Skeen went looking for a weapon suggested to me that he had time to consider his options and the consequences of his actions.
But I didn't sit in the jury box for a week. The jury decided no intent and on reflection thinking about the passions that were running wild, the fact Vincent was 16 and Luke 17 and the stupidity of teen men on a party night, I can see that there was reasonable doubt on intent.
So I want to sympathise with juries and judges who have to look at life in all its shades of grey and make decisions that can be picked apart by people who see the world in black and white.
The families of both lads were in tears after the decision. Tears of joy, grief, relief and anger.
So the lesson, first of all, is to remind our kids that life is not a movie and step back, breathe and think when the passions are in turmoil.
But also we should all realise that the application of justice is a much more difficult thing than many realise. In the fullness of time I hope that everyone considers this decision to have a wisdom that Solomon would be okay with.
My other message is to Vincent Skeen. You made some very bad decisions and you've been given a second chance at life that Luke Tipene will never have. You better make the best of it. You have to live two lives now. You owe it to your family, you owe it to Luke and his family and you owe it to 12 of your peers who gave you that second chance.