It's time to make the punishment fit the white-collar crime
May 27, 2010
from the Nelson Mail (NZ) editorial:
....it's not easy to maintain a clear-eyed focus on justice.
Very few New Zealanders will feel that this is what happened when Blue Chip co-founder Mark Bryers entered the dock on Thursday to be sentenced on 34 charges. Most, and particularly the Blue Chip investors who have lost their nest eggs, will feel that his sentence was a perfect case of the "slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket".
Although there were 34 charges, and he admitted them all, in descriptive terms they were at the lower end of the scale. However, the effect of the offending on ordinary New Zealanders has been horrendous.
As Judge Chris Field noted at the sentencing in front of the many investors who had gathered to witness it, "the letters that I have received range in consequences up to financial disaster, loss of homes, illness and effects on health and relationships".
Bryers' failure to carry out his obligations had been "catastrophic", the judge said, and promptly sentenced him to $37,470 in fines and 75 hours' community service.
Pardon? Bearing in mind that at least 3000 Blue Chip investors are fighting to recover about $84 million from the company and that many are elderly – old enough, no doubt, to have believed the traditional definition of a blue chip investment, one that is second only to gilt-edged in security – Bryers has got off very lightly. Most of his offences were punishable by fines, but a two-year prison term was available.
....In the debate about so-called "sensible sentencing" the focus is almost always on violent criminals or those who have taken someone's life through an alcohol or drug-induced crime. These are often individuals who have been defeated by their background.
Frequently, they are themselves victims. Sometimes it is necessary to lock them up to protect the public. But sentencing can also sensibly be used to put away people who have harmed their fellows without picking up anything more dangerous than a cellphone. Sometimes that should be done simply so they don't get away with it.
Do you agree?