25 Aug 2023

Mama Hooch sexual assaults: Survivors praised for courage in speaking up

7:06 am on 25 August 2023
Danny and Roberto Jazz during sentencing in Christchurch District Court on 24 August 2023 for 69 charges, including rape, sexual violation, indecent assault, and stupefying.

Danny and Roberto Jazz during sentencing in Christchurch District Court on 24 August 2023 for 69 charges, including rape, sexual violation, indecent assault, and stupefying. Photo: NZ Herald / George Heard

The women who were subjected to "monstrous" attacks by the Jaz brothers have been lauded for their bravery in speaking up and helping put them behind bars.

The sentences for Danny and Roberto Jaz were handed down during a tense and emotional hearing at Christchurch District Court on Thursday.

The brothers were found guilty on 69 charges, including rape, sexual violation, indecent assault, and stupefying, over a three-year period.

The offending between 2015-2018 was linked to the central Christchurch bar Mama Hooch and neighbouring restaurant Venuti. Both establishments were owned by their father, Michael Jaz.

Danny Jaz, 40, was sentenced to 16 and a half years' imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of eight and a half years.

His younger brother, Roberto, 38, was sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years.

The judge, police, victim advocates and family members all commended the women, several of whom addressed the stone-faced men directly when delivering victim impact statements.

Judge Paul Mabey denounced the pair's predatory acts when handing down the sentences.

"You drugged and sexually offended against vulnerable young women.

"You knew of stupefying drugs, you had stupefying drugs.

"You are not men of good character, you are sexual predators."

This blunt evaluation was met with a shout of "absolutely!" and brief applause from the public gallery.

Earlier, one woman also gave her attackers a frank message during her victim impact statement.

"The offending against me has changed me, I struggle with anxiety and depression still.

"I'm vigilant and fearful in social settings and I'm constantly having flashbacks which set my anxiety and emotions off."

She then singled out Danny Jaz.

"Your sentence will never be able to get myself back to the way I was prior to the event.

"Your disregard towards women is disgusting."

Judge Mabey conceded the sentence imposed may not bring much comfort to the brave women who delivered victim impact statements.

"I was impressed with the way you gave your evidence, and the bravery, and I was impressed with your bravery today.

"It is now for you to move on as best as you can ... and I think you will."

Aviva sexual violence services client manager Jo Bader, who supported many of the survivors, felt people were generally happy with the outcome.

Although Bader admitted no punishment would have been adequate for some, especially given the attitudes of the Jaz brothers during the judicial process.

"I do appreciate that for a lot of those women, no sentence probably would've been long enough, given what they had experienced."

She said the day was about the "phenomenal women" who addressed their attackers directly.

"They are the real heroes and they should absolutely take great pride in themselves.

"For all of them getting up there and saying what they needed to say.

"One of the things that was inspiring in that courtroom was their collective solidarity and the care they had for one another."

Bader also called out the environment which had led to such predatory behaviour on such a scale.

She said it was on society as a whole to take ownership of the issue of sexual violence.

"Absolutely their behaviour is monstrous, but they weren't born monsters.

"That behaviour and those belief systems were shaped over time and that's the thing we all need to think about."

Independent victim advocate Ruth Money

Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Another victims advocate, Ruth Money, felt the judge was fair in his ruling.

However, she believed some things needed to improve around the judicial process.

"I think our Crimes Act should certainly be tidied up in terms of stupefying.

"And the age-old problem which is court delays.

"Court delays cause so much unnecessary harm to our survivors."

Detective Inspector Scott Anderson said the sentencing ended five years of "complex investigation work", and a drawn-out prosecution process.

Detective Inspector Scott Anderson speaking to media outside Chch District Court after Jaz brothers sentencing - Mama Hooch case

Detective Inspector Scott Anderson outside Christchurch District Court after the Jaz brothers were sentenced. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

He paid tribute to the survivors who had shone a light on such predatory crimes.

"These victims have helped raise awareness of this type of predatory behaviour, putting others on notice that this type of offending is serious and will be investigated and prosecuted.

"I truly believe the system is getting a whole lot better for victims of sexual assault to come forward and then through the court process."

A father of a survivor, who delivered an angry outburst in court after the Jaz brothers were sentenced, later recounted the episode.

"It was pretty instinctive, I just felt like I had to say something."

He later told RNZ, under the condition of anonymity, that he was relieved but also proud of the survivors.

He said his daughter shared this relief and was surprised by "the hefty sentence" handed down to the pair.

The man called for changes to the judicial process and said the length of time before sentencing was unacceptable.

"As victim advocates have said, they're working in a legal system, not a justice system.

"Justice was served today, but hell, it took a long time to get there."

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