19 Oct 2022

Crown loses appeal over teen rapist Jayden Meyer's sentence

3:37 pm on 19 October 2022
Jayden Meyer - convicted of rape

Jayden Meyer outside the Tauranga District Court. Photo: NZ Herald / Ethan Griffiths

By Ethan Griffiths, Open Justice reporter

The Crown's application to appeal the home detention sentence passed down to teen rapist Jayden Meyer has been declined but the High Court has given a scathing review of how the case was handled.

In a judgment today, High Court Justice Sally Fitzgerald deemed the sentence Meyer received was "manifestly inadequate", but "in the unique circumstances of this case, the interests of justice are best served by declining the Crown's application".

Fitzgerald also concluded the sentencing process "lacked transparency", which undermines public confidence in the justice system.

Deputy Solicitor General Madeleine Laracy last week sought leave to appeal Meyer's sentence of home detention in favour of prison time.

Open Justice revealed last month how the Tauranga teenager was sentenced to nine months' home detention for the rape of four 15-year-old girls and the sexual violation of another. He was 16 at the time of the offending.

The sentence drew the ire of the public, sparking numerous public protests last month.

Originally, both Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett and Meyer's lawyer Rachael Adams submitted at the time that a sentence of home detention would be most appropriate - despite Pollett accepting imprisonment would be the ordinary sentence for this sort of offending; "and indeed one of many years".

However, today Justice Fitzgerald said it was "an error of law for the sentencing to proceed as it did".

"Whether the end sentence is around three years' imprisonment as suggested by the Crown or somewhat higher for the reasons just given, the judge's sentence of home detention was manifestly inadequate. The fact the Judge did not engage in an orthodox sentencing analysis obscures the reality of this conclusion."

Fitzgerald said the sentencing process lacked transparency.

"Given the approach adopted by the Judge (which to be fair to him, was supported by the Crown), the sentencing exercise lacked transparency, which in turn undermines public confidence in the administration of justice."

Tauranga District Court Judge Christopher Harding had said a sentence of imprisonment being typical of this level of offending is "undoubtedly correct".

But Harding's written sentencing decision did not detail how he instead reached a sentence of home detention, besides saying he accepted the probation report and the submissions of counsel.

During last week's hearing In court, Laracy told Justice Fitzgerald the conclusions of both the District Court judge and Crown prosecutor were flawed.

"It remains incomprehensible, how from an eight-year [imprisonment] starting point, the judge can then move to accept home detention is the appropriate sentence.

"This is a significant error of law."

Laracy argued a sentence of imprisonment was most appropriate.

Acting for Meyer, lawyer Rachael Adams said it was hard to see the decision to appeal as anything more than the Crown reacting to public outrage. She has previously described her client as "perhaps the most vilified man in New Zealand".

"If ill-informed public opinion is of the view there has been a miscarriage of justice, that does not mean that there has been."

According to the notice of appeal, the Solicitor General was first made aware of the prosecution a day after Open Justice revealed the sentence.

Adams argued the fact the Crown supported the home detention sentence means if the sentence was quashed it would be "inhumane".

The Crown's appeal against the sentence came six weeks outside of the statutory window for appeal.

Justice Fitzgerald said with Meyer now attending a sexual violence rehabilitation programme, the logistics of managing this within prison would be difficult.

"Given the delay, Mr Meyer has served over a third of his sentence.

"I accordingly accept that to sentence Mr Meyer now to a sentence of imprisonment carries with it a real risk of undermining progress to date in rehabilitation, through his engagement in an appropriate youth sexual offending programme. This is a particularly important factor in my view."

* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

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