Greg Meads and the Lacking-Sense Sentencing Trust
The Greg Meads murder case was previously discussed on MENZ. It became clear that anyone who attempted to discuss rationally issues around this case would be personally abused, including any discussion of the extent to which provocation should be taken into account at sentencing since it had been removed as a partial defence against a murder conviction. Neville Robertson, well known for supporting a domestic violence industry largely built on exaggerations, fabrications and myths, labelled my writing about the Greg Meads case “misogynist”. When challenged to point to anything I had written fitting that description, he was unable to do so but instead suggested that any mention of provocation in considering a man’s reactions to a disloyal wife plotting behind his back to ruin him and to take his child away is “misogynist”. Of course, women’s violent reactions to men’s behaviour they found similarly threatening would be seen as being understandable and justified.
No wonder then that the Greg Meads case has recently given rise to more nonsense. With all due respects and sympathy for the father of Meads’ murdered wife, the claims made by his Facebook campaign in collaboration with the Sensible Sentencing Trust deserve critical scrutiny. The Sensible Sentencing Trust, true to its history of rarely saying anything sensible, claimed that Greg Meads’ life sentence with a minimum non-parole of 11 years was “one of the shortest sentences ever handed down for murder in New Zealand”Ã¯Â¿Â½. That is absurd spin given that, until recently, murder was automatically punished by a minimum of ten years without parole, with no provision to increase the non-parole period beyond ten years at all. Therefore, the vast majority of murder sentences in New Zealand have been shorter than that for Greg Meads. The claim also failed to acknowledge that the shortest sentence for murder ever served in NZ (as far as I know) was for a woman, Gay Oakes, who was let out after only 8 years of a sentence involving a mandatory minimum of ten years for murdering her husband, burying him in their section and lying for 14 months when asked about his whereabouts. That particular example of female privilege was based on disputed allegations of earlier domestic violence by her victim, and the unscientific pseudo-diagnosis of “battered women’s syndrome”Ã¯Â¿Â½ that feminists think should relieve women of any obligation to behave ethically and lawfully towards men.
Journalist Paul Harper did himself no credit by repeating uncritically the outlandish claims of the anti-Meads campaign, and for his misleading wording such as
“convicted murderer Greg Meads was sentence to 11 years non-parole”Ã¯Â¿Â½
when in fact Greg Meads was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 11 years, an indeterminate sentence allowing the authorities to keep the offender in prison for the rest of his life. Even if released, the offender will be under life-long parole and can be returned to prison for almost any further wrongdoing or failure to obey Probation Officers’ instructions concerning place of residence, associates, activities etc.
Great sympathy is due to Helen Meads’ father David White. He has lost his daughter, his family has lost a beloved member and his grandchildren have lost their mother through the murderous action of Greg Meads. Unfortunately, the Sensible Sentencing Trust seems to exploit grieving relatives in promoting its lynch mob, “lock ’em up and throw away the key”Ã¯Â¿Â½ mentality. Grieving relatives are not in the best position to determine punishments and that is a fundamental reason for the existence of a justice system. Mr White’s claims that Greg Meads’ sentence provided “no closure” and was “demeaning for all victims”Ã¯Â¿Â½ might be understandable for a grieving father, but anything less than a slow death through torture may not be enough retribution for many in Mr White’s position.
Mr White’s suggestions that Greg Meads was sentenced leniently because of his wealth, race, occupation and gender are cheap shots without evidence. The claims echo longstanding feminist allegations that men are favoured in a misogynist justice system, despite so much evidence that any gender favour has long been towards women. For example, compare Greg Meads’ case with that of female murderer Dionne Neale. She stabbed her partner 9 times, the first while he was in the shower and the next eight as he tried to escape, slipping and falling on the bathroom floor then making it to the hallway where she stabbed him some more and left him to bleed painfully to death. There was no threat that her victim might abduct her children or plunder her finances. Yet for no apparent reason except that she was female, her vicious violence was seen as deserving of only the statutory minimum ten-year parole period.
Mr White also implied that Greg Meads’ premeditated offence was treated as less serious than homicide involving rage and no intent to kill. That implication is also absurd because manslaughter tends to incur lesser sentences than murder except in rare cases where aggravating factors such as prolonged cruelty are present. I mean no insensitivity or minimization, but one must acknowledge that Greg Meads’ murder of his wife was quick and without additional suffering caused to his victim. There seemed little justification for punishing it differently from other murders for which a ten-year minimum non-parole period remains the standard as intended by parliament.
In the reporting of Mr White’s analysis of the case there is no mention of the significant provocation involved. Greg Meads’ sentence in fact shows that the government’s promises about provocation were false. When the partial defence of provocation was removed we were told that Courts would take provocation into account at sentencing. Greg Meads committed a basic murder yet his sentence involved a longer non-parole period than the statutory ten-year minimum. Was there any reason other than being a white male that caused his murder to be punished more severely than others?
Following on from those spurious claims by Mr White and the Lacking-Sense Sentencing Trust, we are fed even more outlandish allegations. Apparently, Helen Meads was “forced”Ã¯Â¿Â½ to sign a pre-nuptial agreement that protected Greg Meads’ assets. Huh? Who forced her, the mafia? For any such agreement to hold water, both parties need to receive independent legal advice. (Of course, when a woman entering a relationship has more assets than the man she will almost always make the relationship conditional on a pre-nuptial agreement protecting her assets. Why is it considered unreasonable when a man expects the same?) Journalist David Fisher also deserves censure for reporting this lot of allegations without responsible analysis, and for falsely stating “Meads was sentenced to 11 years in prison”Ã¯Â¿Â½ when in fact the sentence was for life imprisonment.
Another reason Mr White gives for demanding a longer non-parole period is to protect Meads’ daughter from his influence when he is released. Well, she will be at least 21 even assuming Greg Meads is released at his first Parole Board hearing, which would be unusual. That seems old enough to make decisions about contact. If Mr White thought more about her welfare than about retribution, he might encourage her to understand the provocation affecting Greg Meads and he might promote healing in her relationship with her only biological father, sinner though he may be.
Is this relevant to MENZ? In many ways. Never-ending demands for harsher retribution nearly always target men and encourage further erosion of men’s rights and treatment under the law. We must remain vigilant and demand that what’s considered fair treatment for women must apply equally to men.