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Greg Meads and the Partial Defence of Provocation

Greg Meads killed his wife by shooting her at close range and he has now been convicted of murder. His action was no more acceptable in a civilized society than a wife similarly killing her husband, and Mr Meads deserves appropriate justice. However, the case is relevant to the men’s movement for at least two reasons. Firstly, the story has been used by media as a feminist propaganda device, perpetrating unbalanced claims about domestic violence and painting Mr Meads as a controlling male who subjected his wife and family to past violence. Secondly, under previous legislation this case may have involved a successful partial defence of provocation that would have reduced the conviction to that for manslaughter.

The portrayal, by relatives of the deceased wife, of Mr Meads as a violent patriarch may or may not be accurate. Much was made of his expectation that at dinnertime the family should not drown out the television he liked to watch, presumably the news. (Of course, any such expectation of his family by a hard-working man is totally outrageous…) An alleged previous serious assault by Mr Meads was said to be due to his belief, on the basis of text messages and pictures on her phone, that his wife was being unfaithful. The implication in the news stories was that it was just paranoia on Mr Meads’ part, just more of his controlling behaviour. It seems that men should never be suspicious of their wives or look at their text messages (but when women do it to their husbands that’s justified). The issue of his wife’s possible unfaithfulness was treated in the news stories as irrelevant, as though it had no bearing on Mr Meads’ response to it. Further, one would have thought that if he had done a “real number” on his wife’s face including breaking her nose, crushing her larynx and causing her to bleed from the ears, there might be some medical evidence to support this. (Addendum 26/11/10: But see comment from David White in comments below informing us that relevant medical evidence exists but was ruled inadmissible in the trial.) Mrs Meads’ 18-year-old who grew up from the age of 4 years with Meads as her stepfather “could never recall a continued period of abuse from Meads towards (her) mother” but now decided that her mum must have been hiding this. She did however recall Meads calling his wife “a dirty effing slut”, but she did not comment on the accuracy or otherwise of his description, as though that also had no bearing on the matter. Funny though, if one were to criticize the stepdaughter for describing Meads as leaving others to do his work, as “cold and calculated”, and as a “tight-arse”, she would likely respond that her comments were true and therefore justified.

How ethical is it for news media to parrot unsubstantiated slurs against someone, with no apparent effort to check the validity of the allegations and not even any hint of cautious questioning or tentative wording about them? The fact that the target of those allegations would find it very difficult to mount defamation proceedings against the news media (because he is in prison and already has the public against him) does not make such targeting any more ethical. And how often do we ever see the news media give the same coverage to character criticisms about women who murder their husbands? On the contrary, nearly all such cases are exploited to spread more anti-male propaganda, giving voice only to the murdering woman’s allies who paint her as a nice person and a poor victim who was simply defending herself against alleged previous and possible future (but not imminent) abuse.

Possibly even less ethical, due to greater social damage caused, is giving voice to individuals’ uninformed claims about domestic violence generally. Detective Sergeant Rob Carpinter was quoted as urging anyone suffering from family violence to “seek help”, implying that it had been proven that Mrs Meads had been suffering from family violence (more than she had been committing it). He also referred to “partner agencies” with whom the police work closely concerning domestic violence. Well, police sure aren’t working with or listening to any men’s or fathers’ agency, so the only “partner agencies” will be feminist, male-denigrating groups. This is essentially an admission by the policeman that our police force works in gender-biased ways and has been captured by feminist politics.

Kerre Woodham bemoaned the fact that the alleged beating that crushed the wife’s larynx (no mention of the broken nose here) was not put before the jury during the trial. Well Ms Woodham, perhaps the decision not to introduce that issue was made by the prosecution because any such allegation if made during trial would be subject to close scrutiny and that process may well have caused the jury to gain a less favourable perspective on Mrs Meads’ behaviour. (Addendum 26/11/10: Please note that David White in comments below informed us that relevant evidence had been offered by the prosecution but was ruled inadmissible. This does not however make Kerre Woodham’s opinion any more intelligent. A fundamental principle of our justice process is that the prosecution must convince the jury of the crime under consideration, not prejudice the jury’s view of the defendant with past allegations or convictions. Otherwise, anyone with past convictions is likely to be presumed guilty of any new allegation whether or not that new particular guilt has been proven.)

Mrs Meads’ father was quoted as saying “I think there’s some ludicrous number of women being killed by the husband or partner and Helen was one of them”, and this was followed by another quote from Detective Sergeant Carpinter telling us that “on average, a woman was killed by her partner or ex-partner every five weeks in New Zealand”. Well, yes, that’s a very bad thing though probably not quite the “ludicrous number” Mrs Meads’ father imagined, but why were dead female partners the only ones thought worth mentioning? A man is killed by his partner or ex-partner about every twelve weeks; is that frequency so much lower that domestic killing should be portrayed as though men never suffer from it? Is that level of killing not ludicrous, or are male victims totally ignored because of their gender? In comparison, suicide is usually portrayed as affecting both genders even though men are driven to true suicide much more often than are women and the gender difference in suicide is greater than that in partner killing.

The partial defence of provocation was recently removed from our law on the claim that it rewarded a loss of self-control. This policy of course denies the strength of emotions and the reality that under certain levels of provocation any average person would tend to reduce conscious choice and judgement over behaviour. When the partial defence of provocation was removed we were assured that provocation could be taken into account as an ameliorating factor in sentencing. Several sources of provocation appeared to be relevant in Mr Meads case. Firstly, there had been a history of behaviour and texting by Mrs Meads that led Greg Meads to believe she was having sex with another or others. Secondly, leading up to the killing Mrs Meads was said to have been going out all night and coming home in the morning. That seems somewhat provocative. Thirdly, around the time of the killing Greg Meads had discovered many more troubling texts on her phone concerning her activities and plans. For example, one text read:

“I am sweet. It may take some time but he’s going down. When I’m finished he will be f***** I’m in the best mood. When are you in Rotorua? When are you back ?”

Another, from a friend, read

“Make sure you clean the house out. Just leave him with his clothes in a pile on the floor.”

To me, texts like that are downright threatening. They may imply a threat to Mr Meads’ property, but their meaning could extend to include physical or lethal violence. To describe such texts as provocative would be an understatement. Fourthly, according to Mr Meads’ father the most significant provocation was that Mrs Meads was planning to take their daughter away. Many fathers will immediately recognize the devastating loss Mr Meads will have felt when faced with losing his day-to-day relationship with his daughter, and the terrible fear that his wife would try and would be allowed to shut him out of his daughter’s life. Perhaps Mrs Meads’ texts showed her plotting to do just that.

The provocation involved in the circumstances described above will have been further heightened for any man aware of misandrist law that will affect him following separation, e.g.
– convenient definitions of “relationship property” that essentially legalize theft by women of men’s assets,
– protection orders that require no evidence beyond hollow allegations in order to severely damage fathers’ relationships with their children,
– frequent legal collusion with mothers who seek in other ways to shut fathers out such as by moving the children far away, and
– the bounty paid by the State through so-called “child support” and through the DPB to mothers who limit and degrade the relationship between children and fathers by not agreeing to shared care.

It is clear from other news stories that violent women continue to claim provocation in order to justify their offending, reframing such provocation as necessary self-defence even when she has carefully planned and carried out an attack or murder as the man takes a shower, lies sleeping in bed or attempts to get away from her. It is also clear from sentencing that uncorroborated claims of such provocation are strongly reflected in relatively low sentences for violent women. Under any reckoning Greg Meads’ behaviour was affected by provocation, but we shall see to what extent if any this will be considered in his sentencing.