OPINION: Police Minister Anne Tolley's photo, atop the first car to be crushed under the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill, has been criticised in some quarters for the nasty, mean-spirited triumphalism.
Admittedly it wasn't the typical poster shot you get when women in heels are photographed disporting themselves on cars. You're not likely to see it posted on the wall of any garage near you.
The less aesthetic, more substantive criticism is that the publicity stunt was just an empty gesture. That is only partly true.
This was the first actual, factual crushing since the law empowering it was passed four years ago. So let that be a lesson to ... well whom, exactly? Daniel Ronald Bryant, who by that stage was one conviction over the three-strikes limit where the punishment technically kicks in? The 116 people who are on their second strike?
Arguably. As for the wider boy racer population. In some respects they're a fatalistic crowd and, in any case, it's going to take more than a one-every-four-years attrition rate to put the fear of anything much into them.
Things may change if the crusher gets busier. Which it should. It may be that the years to now have simply been a case of "priming the pump" while enough young hotheads have been building up the shabby qualifying record since the law came into being.
Perhaps there's also been that tactical element delaying things too. Young Mr Bryant switched the ownership of his car many times to try to protect it, and elsewhere other wriggling experiments may have been undertaken – "Here's the car, officer, though I seem to have misplaced the engine ..."
So as things stand it's fair enough, then, to call the crunch a gesture. But an empty one? Not exactly.
Mrs Tolley drew some criticisms for standing atop what someone even called the "cadaver" of the automobile, as if this was disrespecting a departed loved one.
Please. We don't mean it facetiously when we say that people should reflect that when the crusher came down, the car was empty. So often, the tragedy is that when hoons' cars come to grief, they generally aren't empty. Nor are the cars they are liable to smash into.
Not even Mrs Tolley was casting Bryant as the worst guy in the world. A "silly young man" she called him. But his convictions include dangerous driving. In one case he was caught doing burnouts in the middle of State Highway 1, and in another case he lost control and smashed into a fence. And, of course, he has passengers. Drive like that and you endanger not just your own life.
Bryant's father says he's learnt his lesson. It's hard to draw that conclusion from what he's posted on his Facebook page, with its "lol" reference. And there's plenty of defiant anti-police posting going on too.
Actually, both sides have been rather too puffy. Mrs Tolley would have been wiser to have been a little bit less combative in her own stance, and more implacable and – dare we say – judicial. If she wants the hoons out there to take notice, she doesn't need to crush with greater ceremony. Just with greater diligence. In a way that communicates that there's nothing particularly personal, and certainly not emotional, about any of this. It's just what's going to keep happening, when the rules kick in.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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