Is Napier-based district court judge Tony Adeane ten or 12 times more likely to jail recidivist drink drivers than any other judge anywhere in New Zealand?
Unless someone out there has the courage to spill the beans, confirmation that Judge Adeane (appointed in 1993) enjoys the highest rate of jailing drink drivers will remain secret.
Not even Ombudsman Professor Ron Paterson is prepared to intervene.
Prof Paterson refuses to lift a cloak of confidentiality over research which would show which part of New Zealand a person is ten to 12 times more likely to be jailed for recidivist drink driving than any other.
Wellington-based alcohol and drug addiction counsellor Roger Brooking guesses it may be Hawkes Bay, where district court judge Adeane presides, but he needs to be certain.
Mr Brooking wants the facts in order to provide an affidavit to the Court of Appeal for a bloke from Hawkes Bay who was jailed 19 times for drink-driving.
Research done at Victoria University by criminologist Wayne Goodall and his supervisor Russil Durrant, and published last year, highlighted considerable differences in sentencing from region to region for similar offenders and might also show where a drink driver is less likely to be jailed.
As part of a confidential deal to get information from the justice ministry, Mr Goodall agreed not to identify any judges or the regions in which they dispensed justice.
He gave a similar verbal undertaking to the chief district court judge.
Mr Goodall agreed to anonymise the geographic areas of the various judicial circuits, replacing them with numbers from Circuit 1 to Circuit 17.
The research was aimed at examining sentencing disparities rather than highlighting circuits that were more punitive.
Messrs Goodall and Durrant, along with the university and the justice ministry, refused to provide the information Mr Brooking sought - that Circuit 8 was Judge Adeane's patch.
Mr Brooking could not have what he sought because it was confidential, they claimed.
Victoria University also claimed access to other research material could be compromised or cut off if the sentencing material was disclosed.
Ombudsman Prof Paterson agreed, telling Mr Brooking the other day those were good grounds for withholding the information which were not outweighed by public interest considerations favouring disclosure.
Mr Brooking told CaseLoad he was considering his response.
Footnote 1: Prof Ron Paterson comes from a distinguished academic background and was made an Ombudsman in 2013. An Auckland University law professor currently on leave, he is chairman of the banking ombudsman scheme and was health and disability commissioner for ten years.
Footnote 2: Those who frequent the Ladies & Escorts lounge reckon the public need to know which parts of the country they are more likely to be jailed in if they persist in driving after or during drinking - if only to avoid them or drink less.
After all, this justice business, court stuff and judge work is paid from the ever-strained public purse, in the name of the public, so why can't folk know who the top jailers are and take steps to responsibly avoid them???
Footnote 3: CaseLoad welcomes the truth from anyone who has it and is not bound by the notion of confidentiality espoused by Victoria University, the justice minister and Prof Paterson.
Random crime news from home & abroad
CaseLoad's eye was taken the other day by a horrible headline hollering: "Hedgehog thrown through window of West Coast house."
Breathless Greymouth Star staff (apparently it took more than one to cover this shocker), reported how it appeared someone had thrown a hedgehog (found surrounded by broken glass) through the front window of a house in Lynch Street, Cobden.
It was, the paper said, a "bizarre incident" which occurred sometime between Thursday and Saturday.
"Whether the hedgehog was alive at the time of the act has not been determined, but it was dead when the property owner arrived home," the paper said.
No other damage to the house was apparent and it seemed whoever threw the hedgehog did not enter the property.
"Thank God for that," said Our Man At The Bar. "Had this felon been armed with more hedgehogs and actually entered the house God knows what mayhem may have ensued..."
"There's more to this," said The Scunner. "I reckon the local coppers haven't ruled out the possibility they may have stumbled on a gang of acrobatic suicidal hedgehogs out for a good time..."
Which is a means of introducing the next topic.
Consider, if you will, what constitutes crime news in Britain - as reported by the read-by-millions tabloid Mirror - and what makes crime news in Christchurch - as recorded by that city's studious crime chronicler David Clarkson on his Christchurch Court News website.
"Killer nurse who took pictures with corpses flooded with fan letters in prison from male admirers." The Mirror.
"Man tried to block police search." Christchurch Court News.
"Terrifying robbery caught on CCTV: Ski mask thug repeatedly stabs shopkeeper behind counter." The Mirror.
"Stalker admits putting cement in car engine." Christchurch Court News.
"Dog died after owner swung it like axe against car then hurled it into wall." The Mirror.
"Community work for bringing in threatened species." Christchurch Court News.
"Twisted care home trio jailed for sickening campaign of abuse against elderly residents." The Mirror.
"Stolen goods traded for cannabis." Christchurch Court News.
"Demon Barber who slashed man's neck with razor leaving 10cm wound spared jail." The Mirror.
"Ten-week jail term for repeated trespasser." Christchurch Court News.
"Grandmother bound, gagged and tortured for three days - by her axe-wielding husband." The Mirror.
"City too damaged for cigarette butt hunter." Christchurch Court News.
"Wild place, that garden city," said Our Man At The Bar, deftly spearing a cheerio with his faithful frayed cocktail umbrella.
Legal aid lawyers never had it so good
Those lawyers eking out an existence on legal aid have nothing to moan about, compared with their London counterparts.
It emerged the other day that Mackesys, one of London's biggest criminal legal aid firms, was to close after more than 40 years in the game - citing the ill health of its sole proprietor Geoff Wordsworth.
A Mackesys statement rejected rumours of insolvency or financial mismanagement.
All 27 staff at the firm's five offices across south-east London were made redundant and paid to the end of October.
A planned merger with LJ Law collapsed a few weeks ago after due diligence checks were done on Mackesys.
A later statement said Mackesys was being restructured.
Interestingly, official figures showed that in 2012/13 Mackesys received the equivalent of just over $NZ3.11 million from criminal legal aid work - not much to support a staff of 27.
Some Kiwi legal aid lawyers, working solo or with only a handful of helpers, regularly reap $1 million a year from the public purse.
Many more get $500,000 plus.
Which suggests life on the pig's back of the Kiwi legal aid gravy train isn't as tight as some lawyers make out.