Rotorua crims owe $1.8m in reparations

By Brendan Manning, and Abigail Hartevelt


More than $1.8 million in reparation money is owed by more than 700 offenders in Rotorua, causing prolonged frustrations for victims of crime.

Figures obtained from the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act show the top five amounts owed locally - all upwards of $40,000 - are for a range of crimes including forgery, fraudulently using a document for pecuniary advantage and accessing a computer for dishonest purposes.

The top three Rotorua reparation bills are $160,000 for forgery and $106,990 and $76,009 for fraudulently using a document for pecuniary advantage.

More than $91 million is currently owed in reparation by offenders nationwide.

Justine Howe is the mother of Jesse Howe, who was killed at the age of 17 in a crash south of Rotorua in July 2010, and said offenders who were ordered to pay reparation should pay it off as soon as possible rather than in dribs and drabs over several years.

"They did the crime."

Mrs Howe said she felt sorry for victims of crime who were still waiting to be paid reparation.

Rotorua teenager Aaron Tawhara Gourlay was sentenced at the end of last year after pleading guilty to causing Jesse's death by dangerously driving a van. As part of his sentence he was ordered to pay $5000 reparation to Jesse's family for the emotional harm he had caused.

Mrs Howe, who still thinks about her son every day, said although Gourlay paid the $5000 soon after he was sentenced, the amount was insulting and pathetic.

She said: "$5000 for a life is just an insult."

However, she added, no amount of money would bring back her son.

"We didn't want it, to be honest."

She said the money had been put into a bank account.

Victims' advocates say authorities are not doing enough to enforce the repayment of outstanding money.

Reparation can be ordered by a judge under the Sentencing Act 2002 if a victim of crime suffers harm, loss or damage.

Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar said when reparation was introduced as an alternative to prison sentences, the legislation lacked the teeth to ensure reparation was paid.

Other models trialled internationally had also run into problems when it came to collecting the money owed, he said.

"Ultimately, if you are going to use reparation as an alternative to sending someone to prison, then it must be paid."

Having a soft hand on reparation enforcement sent the wrong message to offenders who "could give the fingers to the system, walk out of court and basically laugh their way to the bank".

From a victim's perspective, the non-payment of reparation eroded their faith in the justice system and caused added stress and anxiety on top of the crime committed against them, Mr McVicar said.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Nigel Fyfe said collecting reparation was the responsibility of courts. Court staff seek payment in full in the first instance then negotiate sustainable payment arrangements where appropriate and take enforcement action when necessary.

Enforcement action includes clamping vehicles, seizing and selling property, making compulsory deductions from people's income or bank accounts, issuing arrest warrants and preventing overseas travel.

Reparations Top five reparations owed nationally:

  • $545,492.50 - Obtain by deception (over $1000)

  • $500,000 - Breach Securities Act

  • $497,410 - Theft by person in special relationship and cause loss by deception

  • $425,000 - Breach Securities Act

  • $393,604.55 - Fails to make deduction/Withhold of tax (two counts)

- Rotorua Daily Post

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