COMMENT:

If ever you had any doubts about Justice Minister Andrew Little's contention that locking people up for longer periods isn't the answer then have a look at this week's court appearance of serial drink-driver Gavin Hawthorn.

This out of control moron, 56, was again before the court for sentencing this week on his 12th charge of drunk driving which he's been caught doing for the past 40 years - leaving four people dead in his wake.

He got out of jail four years ago after a 10-year stretch for manslaughter, which left a 34-year-old dead after he drunkenly drove at speeds of almost 170kmh before crashing.

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During his time in jail he refused any form of rehabilitation so it was no surprise he was before the courts again this week.

What was the surprise though was his sentence: six months home detention, 180 hours of community work and two years disqualification from driving.

Compare that disqualification to the sentence on the same day of another drunk-driving moron on his sixth charge, fortunately without the loss of life of anyone else, who rightly got disqualified indefinitely.

But then it could be argued that these drunks when they get behind the wheel couldn't give a toss whether they're licensed to drive, they'll to it anyway.

A little consistency in sentencing though would help appease the pubic backlash.

So our Justice Minister would look at these cases, not in a retributive way, but in a way that looks at what drives them, other than alcohol of course.

He's argued that 30 years of policy making, of public anger demanding longer, tougher sentences isn't working.

Little believes the majority of people in our prisons have issues other than just being nasty.

They have health issues and a myriad of other problems than have to be addressed if their behaviour's going to be improved.

His challenge is to win a social licence from the public to do things better.

And if you listen to sociologist Jarrod Gilbert, a down to earth academic who doesn't have skin in the political game, who sums it up as after years of making policy not based on the best evidence but on the loudest voices, then it's time we took a more sober look.

So whilst we are all revolted by drunk drivers who obviously don't give a damn about the danger they cause on the roads, surely it is time for a considered conversation about crime in general.

In cases like Hawthorn's though, making the pig ignorant see sense may be a lost cause and for them preventive detention rather than be confined to home is the only solution, at least for our safety.