Every time someone bemoans the fact they have been selected for jury service my annoyance nerve - the richardus irritatus - starts to jangle.

"Lucky you," comes the reply through gritted teeth ... for not once have I ever been called for jury duty.

Without being too modest - one of my failings to be sure - I'd make a damn good juror.

I listen, can evaluate complicated matters, can sort the wheat from the chaff and would only make my judgment on the evidence presented, not the way the accused acts or looks.


And those things would probably have me unchosen at jury selection because a good defence lawyer would think "oi, oi I won't be able to pull the wool over this guy's eyes, so no way bucko ..."

Call me suspicious, call me cynical - it cannot be helped after years of watching the laughingly titled justice system in operation.

The definition of justice in the good old Concise Oxford Dictionary includes "The exercise of authority in the maintenance of right".

How many times have we seen "right" ignored and the victims of crimes go without justice? How often do crims get dealt with in a way most sensible people in society would regard as being too lenient?

You are right ... too blinking often.

It doesn't seem to matter if it is a drink-driver on their ninth conviction, or a serial burglar, or someone who commits an appalling crime of violence ... most people end up shaking their heads at the sentences and saying "that's no deterrent" or, to misquote Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, "The punishment doesn't fit the crime".

I don't know if judges think that by going soft on offenders it will help them change their ways but, as with kids, we know that to spare the rod is to spoil the child.

Mind you, defence lawyers love it as they often defend the indefensible and use all sorts of ploys to whittle down the severity of the sentence.

A case in point is that of Israel Kaihau, who was recently jailed for eight years for the manslaughter of a man at Waihi Beach on New Year's Day. He'll no doubt be out in four.

Kaihau was convicted of plunging a knife 8.5cm into the head of Robert Wilkinson, a 64-year-old expat Kiwi returning to see friends and family.

Now the jury, it was said by defence lawyer Paul Mabey QC, did not find he had used the knife with murderous intent and so manslaughter was their decision.

That is an utterly astounding result as in my eyes how can a person stab another in the head without expecting to kill them?

Fair go ... which part of the cabbage patch did that jury come from?

The blade was driven 8.5cm into his head. Hello? Earth to jurors?

To be guilty of murder it needs to be proved you planned to kill, while manslaughter is killing without malice of forethought.

The convicted killer, Kaihau, who had a history of violent offences, went out armed with a knife, and stabbed someone in the head ... how much more deliberate do you need?

The maximum sentence for manslaughter in NZ is life imprisonment and, to be fair, judges do need to take into account various things.

The gravity of the offence: (Causing death, I consider quite grave).

The culpability of the offender: (Deliberately ramming a knife blade into a man's head is pretty damning).

The personal circumstances of the offender: (Any sob story the defence lawyer can trot out to engage bleeding hearts).

Restorative justice agreements: (Another way for crims to pretend to be sorry for their actions, rather than being upset about being caught).

The family of Robert Wilkinson was distressed by the sentence handed to Kaihau and who could blame them? His son Daniel said: "I would have liked for more, but that's the New Zealand justice system, isn't it?"

And that is a damning indictment upon a key part of our society that is less and less connected with victims with every crime that goes barely punished.

IF you are in Papamoa next weekend I would highly recommend spending some time down at the beach to watch the BP North Island Surf Rescue Championships.

About 48 inflatable rescue boats are going to be in action from surf clubs around the warmer bits of NZ.

The IRBs are the speedsters of surf lifesaving with some spectacular action as they race their ways out to rescue "patients".

I've been photographing the Papamoa IRB teams over the past few weeks and they are looking ready to lay down a serious challenge to the North Island's top rescue boats.

I've got my parochial fingers crossed ...

Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.