There are times when I deplore a free and open press.

I would have been quite happy to never hear the warped, narcissistic testimony of murderer Clayton Weatherston, for instance. His right to sit in the witness box and attempt to impugn the character of his victim, Sophie Elliott, was obscene.

It infuriated me that he'd achieved exactly what he wanted: the opportunity to justify his sadistic attack on a young woman who'd had the temerity to leave him.

I'm like that with Anders Breivik, the Norwegian self-confessed mass murderer, charged with killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage last year.


Because he is entitled to a fair trial, he's been given a pulpit over the last week to spout his extremist views, and every word has been reported around the world.

It's exactly what he was hoping for: a global audience for his belief system, a star role in the spotlight and an opportunity to further entrench his place in history.

If I were King of Norway, I would put a blanket ban on any reporting of the trial. I would give him name suppression and expunge any detail of the man that would lead to his identification. Of course, you can't do that, I know.

And even if there weren't philosophical arguments against censorship, social media have made censorship impossible to enforce.

But it angers me beyond belief that warped, evil individuals are able to take advantage of decent societies and good people.

Individuals like Breivik are given a fair trial, the opportunity to have their say and thus we end up knowing more about them as human beings than we know about their victims.

This is exactly what most murderers want. The Norwegians, bless them, have reacted in a typically humane way. Rather than making Breivik an object of hatred, they have gathered in their tens of thousands in public squares across the country, to sing an idealistic folk song, Children of the Rainbow.

Earlier in his trial, Breivik had cited the song as an example of how cultural Marxists were attempting to brainwash Norway's youth to support immigration.


As the trial continues, the key question seems to be whether Breivik was sane at the time of the murders. If he's found guilty and sane, he would be sentenced to 21 years in prison. If he's deemed to be insane, he'll be kept in psychiatric care.

Breivik says the worst thing that could happen to him would be for an insanity verdict because it would "delegitimise" his views.

Which has me hoping and praying that he will be declared mad. It would be nice, for once, if the bad guys didn't call all the shots.

Getting over rail aversion

I have terrible memories of the overnight train to Wellington.

As a young journalism student at Wellington Polytech, and before the days of relatively cheap air travel, the train was the only option to get from Hamilton, where I lived, to Wellington, where I was studying.

Several times a year I would endure 12 hours of cold, cramped discomfort while all around me, humanity snored, drank heavily and talked loudly.

I'd stagger out at the Hamilton train station and it would take me a couple of days to recover. It was like jetlag - except I wasn't on a jet and I was landing in Hamilton, not Paris.

After a few trips like this, I preferred the risks of hitchhiking home with a friend, much to the horror of our respective parents, but for me, it was anything but the train. And I've pretty much kept to that since.

One school holidays I took my daughter and her friend to Ruapehu on the train and that was bearable - but that's been it. However, I might reconsider now that KiwiRail has announced an overhaul of the Overlander.

The company is cutting the number of trips the Overlander makes between Auckland and Wellington and scrapping some of the stops along the way, which should take an hour and a half off the total journey.

There will be new carriages, a new menu and new uniforms and the Overland experience will be aimed at international tourists.

KiwiRail's passenger service manager, Deborah Hulme, summed up the company's aspirations succinctly.

"The future for long distance passenger train travel in New Zealand is now about creating an international-standard travel experience, rather than simply getting people from one place to another."

She's absolutely right, although there are some real fans of trains in general, and the Overlander in particular, in this country.

It was strong opposition from the public that saw former owner Toll back down when it tried to scrap the unprofitable service back in 2006 and a number of my talkback callers say they regularly choose the train over air travel because they love sitting back and seeing the scenery.

They see the journey as just as important a part of the holiday as the destination.

I'm not yet in that category when it comes to trains. Give me a 1 hour flight to Wellington over a 10 hour scenic panorama any day.

But once the changes KiwiRail has announced are in place, and given the glowing endorsements of existing train passengers, I might be tempted to exorcise a few ghosts the next time I have a spare weekend, book a train trip to Wellington - and enjoy it.