Chief Justice Sir Ronald Davison is our New Zealander of the Year for the uncompromising sentence of 10 years in jail handed down to the two captured Rainbow Warrior bombers Alain Mafart and Dominque Prieur.

The pair had been part of the team of French agents who slipped into the country and bombed the Greenpeace flagship - which was about to join protests against French nuclear testing in the Pacific - killing crew member Fernando Pereira.

The defence pleaded they should be deported, arguing they had played only support roles and were just following orders. But these arguments cut no ice with Justice Davison.

"This was a deliberate, planned operation of a terrorist nature, carried out for political and ideological motives, using explosives in circumstances where there was a high risk of injury and possibly loss of life, and where heavy damage was caused to the vessel involved," he said.


"The sentence imposed must give a clear warning to such as the defendants and their masters that terrorist-type activities will be met with a stern reaction and severe punishment.

"People who come to this country and commit terrorist activities cannot expect to have a short holiday at the expense of our Government and return home as heroes."

The Herald wholeheartedly supported him.

"The Rainbow Warrior sinking was a shabby criminal enterprise which has ended, as it should, in imprisonment, although for regrettably few of the perpetrators," it said the next day.

But it did not end there. France brought considerable economic muscle to bear and, in a UN-brokered deal, the agents were moved to serve out their sentences on a Pacific atoll in return for an apology and $13 million.

The value of that apology became apparent when France rode roughshod over the UN deal and repatriated the agents who were treated as heroes, as the judge had feared.
But we stick to Sir Ronald as our New Zealander of the Year. He said what needed to be said and did what needed to be done.

From the Herald archive:
'At the end of the Rainbow', NZ Herald online, 4 July 2010
'Sabotage in the heart of Auckland', NZ Herald online, 28 August 2010
Further reading:
'Sinking the Rainbow Warrior - nuclear-free New Zealand', New Zealand History Online