Gang and Central Hawke's Bay drugs rehabilitation programme Kahukura failed in its first bid for recognition from the courts when a judge in Napier rejected it as a basis for relaxing a man's sentence for involvement in supplying methamphetamine.
Judge Russell Collins concluded the programme, Mongrel Mob-based with $2.75 million committed from Government-directed proceeds of crime seizure funds, run on a marae near Waipawa, is not yet approved for such purposes by the Corrections Department.
Its length and other aspects fell "short" of the standards of other approved rehabilitation projects, such as the Salvation Army-run Bridge programme.
But despite the determination, and that he was also being sentenced for threatening a former partner and attacking her car in a breach of conditions following a previous community-based sentence, and a list of previous jail sentences and violent and drugs offending, 28-year-old Damian Iwi Ngaro Tipu avoided being sent to jail.
Tipu, who attended the programme for five weeks, was given another chance with a term of seven months' home detention – with another year of post-sentence supervision.
Judge Collins, accepting the methamphetamine involved at 2.45g was not large, had a short while earlier sentenced partner and co-offender Nicole Alexandra Shergold to four months' home detention and 12 months' post-sentence supervision.
The offending was committed when the pair was living in Waipukurau earlier this year, and Tipu started the Kahukura programme while on electronically-monitored bail in July.
Appearing for Tipu, Napier lawyer Matt Dixon sought consideration of Tipu's completion of the course in determining the type and length of sentence, on a charge Judge Collins noted carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
A former defence counsel and Crown prosecutor working for about four decades in Hawke's Bay, Judge Collins challenged the validity of the programme in the process, noting that among its leaders is Mongrel Mob Notorious boss Sonny Smith and that the Mongrel Mob has been at the centre of most methamphetamine offending in the region.
Tipu's attendance was reported in pre-sentence material, and it was stated the defendant had tested negative in the methamphetamine detection processes used on the programme, which the judge observed to be "self-reporting drug testing".
The judge asked how he could "put aside" the "institutional knowledge" and conclude Smith as head of the chapter was able to rehabilitate members afflicted by methamphetamine, a Class A drug dealt by many members of the gang.
He said there is "one entity which dominates over anyone else as being behind the methamphetamine trade in Hawke's Bay" and that was "the Mongrel Mob".
The defence counsel asserted the negative test was evidence of Tipu's benefits from the programme, and showed a determination to put methamphetamine behind him and rehabilitate.
Tipu, charged with supplying methamphetamine, possessing utensils for the use of the drug, threatening behaviour, wilful damage and breach of post-detention conditions, was given consideration for his guilty pleas and other factors as the judge brought a sentence starting point of 26 months' jail down below two years, enabling him to consider home detention as the end sentence.
Corrections Department director mental health and addictions Emma Gardner told Hawke's Bay Today the department was a member of the cross-agency panel that recommended the programme should receive funding from the Justice Sector Proceeds of Crime fund.
It had not been one of the agencies consulted by Kahukura project promoter and manager H2R Research and Consulting Ltd beforehand, did not provide any feedback and had not had any involvement beyond that on the panel, she said.
"We have not carried out any assessment of the Kahukura programme's effectiveness, and we have no role in approving its operation," she said.
But she said Correction is always interested in understanding more about interventions and therapeutic models used to engage individuals or groups that may have traditionally been reluctant to engage in treatment.
"We are committed to reducing re-offending, and giving offenders every opportunity to turn their lives around," she said.
"We work hard to provide sentenced offenders with the right intervention at the right time to encourage them to address their rehabilitation and intervention needs," she continued. "To help people address their offending we provide programmes according to risk, need and their ability to be responsive to the programme. "
"Our programmes include a focus on motivation to change, cognitive-behavioural interventions and general skills such as education, employment, therapy parenting and practical life skills," she said.
"In order to ensure that we are targeting our investment to interventions that work, we measure the effectiveness of our programmes annually, with results published in our Annual Report."