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Judge Says Gangs Must Stop Cycle Of Retribution And Revenge

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Feb 20 NZPA - A High Court judge today warned warring gangs in New Zealand -- such as the Mongrel Mob and Black Power groups fighting at the time of the murder of Wanganui toddler Jhia Te Tua -- that their cycle of revenge and retribution must stop.

Jhia, the two-year-old daughter of Black Power member Josh Te Tua, was shot dead on May 5, 2007 by a single bullet fired into a her parents' Puriri St home from one of three cars filled with 14 Mongrel Mob members,

"People in New Zealand require the courts to impose stern sentences," Justice Warwick Gendall said in the High Court at Wellington today while sentencing three men for her murder, and three other men on lesser charges.

There was a need for deterrence - not only for the defendants in the case, who would be in prison - but for other gang members "whoever they may be", Justice Gendall said.

"Those who sympathise with such groups must understand that the citizens of communities throughout New Zealand can no longer be terrorised, and lives and property put at risk.

"It must cease -- otherwise those responsible for it or who encourage it will go to prison for very lengthy periods."

He noted, as he started sentencing, that courts could only act within the range the law currently permitted. "You may not be aware the Government introduced in February the Gangs and Organised Crimes Bill, which, if passed, increases the penalty for participation in an organised criminal group from five years to 10 years ... that may give you some idea of the attitude that may well be taken by the community or legislature."

In the Wanganui case, the child was killed in the wake of petty rivalries arising from gang clashes which had turned part of Wanganui into a dangerous battleground.

"It is necessary to prevent you and others -- and they'll know to whom I'm referring -- from committing the same type of attack in public areas, with gang members acting savagely with high-powered weapons and murderous intent."

The judge condemned behaviour at the gang's after-shooting party, when news broke that an infant had been killed, comment was made by one gang member -- not an accused -- that Jhia was "just growing up to be a nigger baby anyway", accompanied by a flourish of gang salutes and agreement.

"It was disgraceful and lamentable," said Justice Gendall.

He noted that Justice Ronald Young had said earlier when sentencing another offender, Chance Wairangi Church, that the escalating acts of violence in Wanganui were inevitably going to result in some sort of tragedy that day, given the provocative actions of both the Mongrel Mob and Black Power.

But Justice Gendall said argument over whether both gangs bore responsibility did not lessen the culpability of the men convicted of murder and manslaughter.

"You were all part of gang confrontation, by choice," he said.

"You were prepared to be involved in a violent confrontation in a public street."

The behaviour was lawless, violent, and premeditated.

It was only by chance that the Black Power gang members outside the house where Jhia died were not hit by bullets, and the fact that the child was not the intended victim did not lessen the responsibility of the offenders.

A child's life was brutally ended, and her grandmother had told the court the family would have to live with the pain and loss forever.

She said the people on the street did not have the power to deal with gangs, but one option make them less attractive lay in sentencing.

"The court has the power to send a loud and clear message to gang members that this sort of action will not be tolerated... we have had enough."

"Let the message be loud," said Justice Gendall. "The cycle must stop. Failing that, the protection of the civilised community will require a very stern response, from the courts, and Parliament".

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