Monday, November 07, 2005

From the courts

I spent a lot of time listening to National Radio today (my car only has an AM radio and I was driving most of the day), so I'm all up on the latest court reports and two of the cases are worth following.

The first was a Hamilton woman who is charged with poisoning her husband with 50 sleeping pills 17 years ago. She appears to admit to the act: "the accused told police Mr Roycroft used to beat her and her children, and she just snapped."

I don't know what defence she will be using, but this case could, again, demonstrate the sexist nature of the New Zealand legal system. The difference between murder and manslaughter is premeditation. This means that if you're stronger than the person you're killed you're much more likely to get convicted for manslaughter rather than murder (because you can kill them without using a weapon). There was a case about 15 years ago (unfortunately I can't remember the woman's name, but I'm sure somebody else will) where a woman was convicted for murdering her husband, when her defence was that she was generally afraid for her life. At about the same time a man got convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, because he was angry that his female partner had hidden his drugs.

The other case was a man who is suing four South Auckland cops. When they arrested him they assaulted him so severely that he lost his testicle. He was later charged with some bullshit disorderly/obstruction charge, and also resisting arrested. He was convicted for the first charge but not the second.

Unfortuantely even if he succeeds (and he better win), this will be treated as 'a few bad apples', not as a systematic culture of abuse and power, let alone as the violence necessary to maintain our current political and economic system.


  1. Isn't the better course of action to leave the guy rather than kill him?

    Yes I know it isn't all that easy, but surely still preferable to killing him.

  2. Anonymous10:48 am

    Leaving a partner isn't as simple as just walking out the door...especially if you have been with them for many years, you have children with them, and they scare the fuck out of you.

    There are many many reasons why women stay with abusive partners, so it's hard to generalise, but I'll name a few anyway - 1. hope that the relationship will improve, 2. the shame and social stigma of the relationship ending (linked to self blame in many cases), 3. economic reasons e.g. lack of personal wealth and reliance on the partner's income, and 4. just plain fear that the partner will retaliate and do something awful to them or their children.
    It's just not as simple as up-and-leaving, and I think each case is really very individual.

    On the bright side (if there is one...), the accused is being represented by Judith Ablett Kerr, QC. I don't really like lawyers (or the law) in general, but she's pretty cool, I think.

  3. Anonymous1:34 pm

    It's also a better course of action to get yourself some more drugs, rather than killing the person you think is responsible for hiding them. Or buying yourself a new Nazi flag, to take an example from today's paper.

    Provocation works as a defence when your better judgement is overthrown, something which is more typically thought of as caused by a sudden shock. I think it's a fair argument that years of abuse can also have that effect on your judgement.

  4. As Suze and Anonymous said, my point was about the legal system, and the sexist result of our legal system's sexist assumptions in their definition of self-defence, and premeditation.

    The paper today seemed to imply that the Hamilton woman was going to argue that she didn't intend to kill him, just to slow him down.

    I noticed that Nazi flag story as well - I wonder whether the defence will succeed.

  5. there's been a lot of research done about why abused partners don't leave, and in addition to the list mentioned above there is the fact that for those who have been ground down and bullied for years there is a certain odd certainty about life with the abusive partner, which leaving them would throw into disarray. i tend to see it to a lesser degree when people won't leave jobs where their boss treats them appallingly - the "but where else can i go" factor - they simply cannot imagine life any other way and to try to do so is far too frightening.