Judge Raoul Neave posed a most excellent question in his sentencing of financier Guy Hallwright for running down a man with his Saab convertible in a road rage incident.
"I have wondered at some length," mused His Honour, "whether or not if this had been an encounter between two teenage boys on the back streets of Manukau, whether we would be here today."
The implication appeared to be that the teenager might have got off more lightly than the Forsyth Barr analyst - that he would not have suffered the "humiliation" of public and media scrutiny.
Indeed. The teen would probably not have suffered the humiliation of a five-day jury trial, defended by the same leading Queen's Counsel who represents Kim Dotcom.
He would, instead, most likely have been advised by some car-boot lawyer to enter early guilty pleas to reckless driving causing injury and failing to stop after a crash. The teen would probably have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, like logging contractor Rodney Bryant or service station attendant Prasant Nathoo - both of whom also drove off after seriously injuring people.
Yet Neave criticised the media for calling it a hit-and-run and taking "vulgar" glee in Hallwright's charges. "What I know of your character," the judge said, "I consider it highly unlikely you would have driven at him."
It seems Hallwright's "impeccable" character has moved Judge Neave to entirely redefine hit-and-run. It is now understandable behaviour, after running over a man and shattering both his legs, to keep on driving - as long as you are an upstanding pillar of the Parnell community, a senior financier, a Master of the Universe.
In Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, a powerful bond trader and his mistress get off charges for seriously injuring a black student in a hit-and-run in the Bronx. The judge said: "Let me tell you what justice is. Justice is the law."
The law was done this week.
In the same spirit that Judge Neave mused about what people might get up to on the streets of South Auckland, it is easy to imagine the Judge and the Master of the Universe one day meeting, single malt Scotches in hand, at an exclusive club, bemoaning the inability of "vulgar" members of the public to understand the unique challenges faced by men of their stature.
Oh, to be Masters of the Universe.
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