COMMENT:

Drunkenness isn't usually a defence for anything and neither should it be.

Many of us have been there, but fortunately other than making a dick of ourselves we haven't inflicted damage on others. Many of us, including myself, have had unwanted, groping sexual attention but we've generally put it down to the perpetrator having over-indulged and we've walked away, simply putting it down to an unfortunate incident and haven't thought much more about it.

That's what happened at Labour's summer youth camp early last year: a drunken yobbo falling over and groping four 16-year-olds and apparently being deeply remorseful, unable to remember it the next day.

Advertisement

That's the way I described it early last year and was pilloried by the anonymous keyboard warriors for not taking it seriously enough.

That would have been an end to the matter, with Labour's HQ initially leaving it for the youngsters to sort out themselves - that is until one of them wrote to minister Megan Woods, asking what was being done about the complaint he'd filed.

The accused’s offending was drunken rather than sexual, the judge said. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The accused’s offending was drunken rather than sexual, the judge said. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Suddenly all hell broke loose, with Labour doing what it does best to shelve an issue, calling in a lawyer to investigate. Jacinda Ardern, who'd spoken at the youth camp earlier in the day, was roped into the scandal, which ended up in charges being laid against the young yobbo.

A plea bargain was done mid-trial before a jury, the sexual aspects of the five charges were withdrawn and the yobbo pleaded guilty to low-level assaults. But Judge Russell Collins took pity on the assailant, who he described as an impressive young man and discharged him without conviction, saying he clearly wasn't after sexual gratification, and neither did he have a perverted motive, putting his action down to drunken stupidity.

Jacinda Ardern and former Labour Party president Nigel Haworth during a press conference. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jacinda Ardern and former Labour Party president Nigel Haworth during a press conference. Photo / Greg Bowker

So he walked away scot free, nothing to see here.

A conviction for what the judge said was low-level offending would have been out of all proportion to what happened on the night, it would have affected the young man's life, like his travel abroad and job prospects. Judge Collins said he hoped the power he had was to put the victims back to the position that they were in before the offending.

Yeah, well, all hell's broken loose again. At least one of the victims hasn't moved on, saying the process has been long and excruciating for them, there's been no recognition of the hurt to them and their families.

The judicial system, he reckons, is now defending drunken stupidity.

Advertisement

Well, no it's not, it's defending proportionality, the potential consequences outweighing the severity of the crime, and that's justice.

Being charged, facing a jury trial and with name suppression not assured is surely penalty enough for his drunken escapade.