Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Wairarapa's worst criminal

Wairarapa's worst recidivist criminal has nearly 300 convictions - mostly relating to fraud and deception offences, figures show.

Details of the individual's offending were released to the Times-Age as part of a wider information request on New Zealand's most prolific offenders.

Convictions, which were grouped by offence type and court cluster, were imposed from July 1980 to June 2012.

New Zealand's worst recidivist criminal has more than 1100 convictions, documents show.

George Groombridge, Wairarapa field officer for the Prisoner Aid and Rehabilitation Society, said family support was crucial in reducing reoffending and helping prisoner rehabilitation.

"I have seen changes in my time and some very, good ones - but they need a family behind them."

The retired senior social worker estimated he had worked with several hundred former prisoners.

Wairarapa's top 10 criminal list shows four people have more than 200 convictions each. Fraud and deception offences were most common, followed by theft crimes.

The Justice Ministry had refused to name the offenders, or give their age or genders, citing privacy concerns. But it now plans to write to the Chief District Court Judge asking the names be made public.

Last year recidivist drink-driver Leon James White, of Carterton, was sentenced to a year in prison on various charges, including a 12th drink-driving offence and assault.

Calvin Charles Zabell was jailed for 18 months after he assaulted his partner and her 3-year-old son while driving last February. A judge said it was hard to imagine how terrified the child would have been when Zabell, 21, threatened to kill him and his mother. Zabell had 29 previous convictions, seven for violence offences.

The Howard League for Penal Reform and Sensible Sentencing Trust are calling for our worst recidivist criminals to be named.

"The hardcore conman is the hardest one to rehabilitate," Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Mike Williams said. "It's a lifestyle choice."

Overall, theft and fraud crimes were most popular among New Zealand's prolific criminals. Of the top 10 national list, only two criminal rap sheets were not dominated by dishonesty charges.

Naming these conmen would benefit the public, Mr Williams said.

"This is one of the few areas where the Howard League would support widespread publication of who they are because obviously these are not victimless crimes.

"If you know these people are conmen, you can at least avoid them.

"That's their business and an occupational hazard of that business are jail terms," he said.

The country's worst recidivist offender has 1152 convictions, while number two on the list has clocked up 676.

Wairarapa top 3 recidivist criminals:

Number 1 - 298 convictions: 249 for fraud/deception. The rest include violence and theft, traffic and vehicle offences and "dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons".

Number 2 - 246 convictions: 163 for fraud/deception. The rest include violence, theft, abduction, harassment, burglary, drugs, weapons and explosives offences.

Number 3 - 211 convictions. 116 for fraud/deception. The rest include breaking and entering, theft, violence, abduction, harassment, illicit drugs, weapons offences and public disorder. - APNZ


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