Sir Bob Jones
Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Sir Bob Jones: Put white collar crims in the stocks

Imagine if we had the stocks option for the Bridgecorp four - (from left) Rod Petricevic, Robert Roest, Gary Urwin and Peter Steigrad. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Imagine if we had the stocks option for the Bridgecorp four - (from left) Rod Petricevic, Robert Roest, Gary Urwin and Peter Steigrad. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Humiliating offenders would be good for the Government and the tomato industry, writes Sir Bob Jones.

Some time ago Finance Minister Bill English gave a much publicised speech about the futility of locking people in prisons. Unfortunately he offered no optional solutions.

Presumably Bill excluded from his handwringing violent offenders and other vicious evil-doers and instead was referring to white collar offenders and the like, who present no danger to the community and whose incarceration bears a heavy financial cost on the rest of us.

There was nothing radical about the minister's comments, to the contrary they are standard form emanating from every white collar crook on release, presumably to provide a sort of self-deluding comfort that their incarceration was all a mistake and they should never really have been there. So they emerge spouting about prison reform.

The sole reason for locking up white collar offenders is revenge. In their case a prison sentence has the function of humiliation, nothing more and is a justifiable sentiment. The other common non-custodial "punishment" is community service but I suspect this is a joke and that the supervisory cost is probably punitive. But while it's humiliating to go to prison, the fact is that once inside, the offenders are protected from public view.

Here's what we should do. We should learn from history re humiliation as a punishment and bring back the stocks. This would not only be costless but would turn a considerable profit and as well bring the offenders out before the public for proper humiliation.

Take the convicted directors of finance companies whose actions have brought so much grief. Imagine if they were put in public stocks for say six hours each day with a one hour lunch break, that a government agency with monopolistic rights was established to sell rotten tomatoes at say $5 a pop to hurl at the offenders' faces and spectator seats were sold for $20 a day. It could be a wonderfully profitable exercise with huge tourism value, exactly the sort of new innovative industry economists are always saying we need to escape from our agricultural dependency.

Additionally, there's a nice symmetry about it as the greater the number of people hurt by an offender's behaviour, the more rotten tomatoes he or she would cop and the larger and more sustained the money-making spectator audience would be.

Take Rod Petricevic. Rod could be in the stocks copping rotten tomatoes in the face for up to four years or even longer before everyone felt sated, given the large number of people adversely affected by his company's collapse.

Conversely a director of a smaller company with fewer victims could be disposed of in a month or two. In the evening they could be hosed down and go home, saving the taxpayers money.

Anyone, whether tourist or unaffected bystander alike would be free to buy and hurl rotten tomatoes out of a sense of public duty, much like jury service. At the end of each day the pulpy tomato pile would be scooped up for local piggeries so nothing would be wasted.

Given the amount of criminality in our society, re-establishing the public stocks in the form of a monopolistic entity could be a highly profitable and employment-creating industry (tomato growing and ripening, entry ticket sellers, food and beverage purveying, security etc) that should appeal to Bill English as another eventual partial privatisation and stock exchange-listing prospect.

Should that occur, doubtless the Waitangi Treaty hucksters would soon be in, wanting to clip the ticket and demanding free shares for providing most of the criminals.

Imagine if the vermin who raped the 5-year-old Belgian girl at Turangi was put in the stocks. He'd pull rotten tomato throwers from across the land and could expect to be daily pounded for at least a decade although he'd certainly go back to prison each night.

The stimulatory effect to the airlines and hotel industry would be enormous with everyone flying in to have a go.

There are probably more lessons from the past we could re-examine. Throwing Christians to the lions has instant appeal and tremendous tourism potential but I suspect this Government might lack the imagination to see its benefits. David Shearer could get some runs on the board by proposing it as Labour policy and he would certainly have my vote as doing God's work.

A supplementary benefit would be the sizeable savings to the zoo in the cost of lion feeding and each lion should be capable of scoffing a couple of Christians per day.

I assume Christians will queue to offer themselves for martyrdom so supply shouldn't be an issue.

The ball's in the Government's court to act on these progressive initiatives. Chris Finlayson will probably quiver but I have no difficulty envisaging Justice Minister Judith Collins formally launching the company by throwing the first rotten tomato.

- NZ Herald

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