24 Oct 2022

National calls for inquiry into Crown's handling of teen rapist Jayden Meyer's sentencing

11:29 am on 24 October 2022

By Tara Shaskey, Open Justice multimedia journalist of NZ Herald

Jayden Meyer - convicted of rape

Jayden Meyer was sentenced to home detention for the rape of four 15-year-old girls and the sexual violation of another. Photo: NZ Herald / Ethan Griffiths

National is calling on Minister of Justice Kiri Allan to launch an inquiry into the Crown's handling of the Jayden Meyer rape case and its implications.

Allan meanwhile said it was "not appropriate" for her as minister to comment on decisions made by the courts, though she said that generally there were issues with the way sexual violence was managed in criminal law.

The call came days after the Crown failed in its bid to throw out Meyer's home detention sentence and replace it with prison time.

"The Crown failed this week in its appeal of the sentence of nine months' home detention, following Meyer's conviction on four counts of rape," National's justice spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said in a statement today.

"Most New Zealanders are incensed by what the High Court called a 'manifestly inadequate' sentence for such serious crimes and the message it sends to victims of such crimes."

Goldsmith said the inquiry should consider a number of factors including why the Crown missed the deadline for appeal, and why a term of imprisonment was not initially sought by the Crown.

It should also consider whether the sentencing regime gives too much scope for judges to reduce sentences, he said.

"It's fair to ask if a system that allows a judge to take what was generally agreed to be a crime that warranted an eight-year prison sentence down to nine months' home detention is fundamentally too loose.

"Confidence in the justice system is one of the most precious things in our democracy. The minister should move swiftly to reassure New Zealanders following this outcome."

Allan said she would not comment on the court decision nor call for an inquiry as the justice system needed to "undertake their work without political interference or influence".

Generally, she said "difficulties, barriers or pain victims experience in seeking justice is really disappointing".

"Improving the justice system to ensure it is victim-centric is a significant priority for me."

She was currently considering sexual violence settings in the Crimes Act 1961, particularly those that directly impact children and young victims.

She expected advice from officials on how to improve the system in the next few months.

She also said the recently-passed Sexual Violence Legislation Act was due to take full effect in December.

"This will make changes to the parts of the court process that we know cause trauma in sexual violence cases.

"The new changes make sure that cases are based on relevant information rather than myths about sexual violence."

The Ministry of Justice was also working alongside the judiciary and legal profession to improve the experience of victims of sexual violence and their whānau in court, she said.

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.

Originally, both Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett and Meyer's lawyer Rachael Adams submitted 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".

Then last week Deputy Solicitor General Madeleine Laracy sought leave to appeal the sentence of home detention in favour of prison time, six weeks outside of the statutory window for appeal.

High Court Justice Sally Fitzgerald, who considered the application, released her decision on Wednesday, declining the bid for an appeal.

She 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."

While dismissing the application, Justice Fitzgerald gave a scathing review of how the case was handled.

She said it was an error of law for the sentencing to proceed as it did, describing the process as lacking transparency.

"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.

"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."

-This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

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