Putting a face to the crime

When someone as young as 13 is charged with murder, admits it and is convicted for it, should their name be made public?

The simple answer is: yes.

This week Jordan Nelson was given an 18-year sentence for the killing of his carer Rosemaree Kurth, whom he admitted shooting in the back of the head on a remote Taranaki farm earlier this year.

It was a brutal killing, and one that shocked the nation, not just because of the brutality, but because of the offender's age. His motivation to commit the horrific act may never be known, as Nelson pleaded guilty to the murder charge.

His upbringing and issues within the education and social framework all played a part, but ultimately he was the one who pulled the trigger.

Cases involving killers under the age of 17 are rare in New Zealand, but that's part of the reason they get so much attention. Understandably, people ask the question: what went wrong in that person's life that led to them committing the crime?

But it is never as simple as that.

And when it comes to name suppression, it is logical that there is some angst around the naming of people so young.

The argument is that young offenders will be at a disadvantage all their lives by having their name made public. However, if the law says they can be tried for such crimes as an adult, surely that means name suppression should only apply in extreme cases.

Having a name out in the open gives an element of accountability for the crime and it shows that someone has been made responsible for all the hurt caused.

It means that people like Rosemaree Kurth aren't victims of some nameless, faceless person.

There is a place for name suppression, but those cases need to meet very strict criteria and should be a last port of call if the justice system wants to be seen as transparent.

Name suppression for someone like Jordan Nelson could potentially do his future prospects harm, but that is easily outweighed by the damage he has caused for the family of the woman he admitted to murdering.

While most New Zealanders enjoy a nice, warm Christmas, just now and then it'd be nice to experience a cooler festive season. Imagine being in the mad rush to buy gifts and wrapping paper, as well as the parking ordeal, without the blistering heat.

Then again, those in the northern hemisphere would probably wish they could avoid the snow and slush around this time of year. The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Manawatu Standard