Key Points:

Tis the season of good will and thank God for it. Every Christmas I find religion.

That is to say, I sense a spirit of goodness in the air that probably has a lot to do with the sweet music, the Santas, the sleighs, the fairy lights and the phony snow, but it works.

It lifts humanity for a while, breeding a certain indiscriminate love.

Like many thousands, I normally visit a church on Christmas Eve just to sing the carols with gratitude for whatever has given us this capacity.

Maybe this year I'd offer a prayer for Leanne Cameron, who wants Bruce Emery kept in prison while he awaits a sentence for killing her son.

A jury believed Emery hadn't intended to kill 15-year-old Pihema Cameron who, with a companion, was putting graffiti on his garage. Emery was convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and I don't know why he was remanded in prison.

But when a High Court judge this week decided he should stay there until he is sentenced in February Leanne Cameron told the Herald: "I'm relieved I don't have to think about him being out before Christmas."

She was hoping Emery gets a lengthy jail sentence. "My son paid for it and we are, so he should pay for it."

I confess that when I read this the spirit of Christmas dimmed. Did this poor woman need reminding that her son and his companion were the instigators of what happened?

"Tagging" might not justify Emery's armed response but it makes his fury completely explicable. Who could honestly say they couldn't imagine doing the same thing if they were to come across a couple of youths deliberately defacing their property?

I know, though, that if I had done what Emery did I would never get over it. A jail term would be superfluous.

It is sad that the dead boy's mother feels Emery hasn't suffered enough.

The Cameron family could choose to deal with Pihema's death much as they would have to if he had died doing some other senseless juvenile thing. Had he been doing burn-outs in a car and hit a wall they would not have blamed the wall. They might not think tagging very serious but they could be helped to understand that other people do, particularly those whose home is defiled. Those people can be rendered so furious they are barely responsible for their actions.

The Camerons could see Emery as the wall.

Before Pihema Cameron's death I could have found nothing to say in mitigation of the wilful vandalism that is tagging. To my surprise, some could.

Some newspaper comment at the time seemed to regard defacing other people's property as, at the very least, an act of cultural identity no better or worse than commercial messages that impose themselves on the public view.

Many who did not go that far nevertheless regarded graffiti as just one of those blights that sophisticated urbanites lived with. I don't think their homes had ever been daubed.

It is hard to know whether the neighbourhoods that breed taggers are aware of this tolerance but the spirit of Christmas allows me to think so. Kids like Pihema Cameron are probably encouraged by the mess they see on buildings around them.

His mother probably understands that better than I do. May she also come to understand the circumstances in which he died. Nobody was entirely guilty or innocent, all were angry, frightened. They were only human. May Christmas bring her that small comfort.