OPINION: Pretty much any story that carries a headline about a violent accountant is going to get some attention.
Say what you like about that profession, it is not one typically besmirched by illegal conduct. Not of the brutish sort, at any rate.
But Queenstown can be a town that brings out the devil in people.
So it proved in the case of a Perth accountant, Ryan Neil Brown - and can't you hear the cries of Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Ebitda! Ebitda! Ebitda!* - appearing in court on an assault charge.
What more substantively differentiated this story from the norm was the warning that it brought from Judge Kevin Phillips about assault fines in circumstances like this; people from Australia with good academic records, coming to New Zealand, getting drunk, acting violently, and showing up in court ready and able to pay fines.
The judge, too, had been minded to deal with these recent matters that way, rather than lumber the taxpayer for the offenders' time in prison or under home detention.
But no more. Judge Phillips ordered Brown to pay $3000 emotional harm reparation for assault and robbery of a man's Samsung phone, but said this would be the last time he dealt with a case in this way.
From here on it would be on the merits of the matter, not on the basis of where the offender lived.
It may strike some that the judge is eschewing a tidy- enough alternative. Many a taxpayer would probably be perfectly happy for the pay-up-and-bugger-off preference to continue, rather than have the state play the role of extended host.
But it probably is a necessary correction.
To concentrate on fines for offences that otherwise would require different sentences is expedient to a fault.
It creates a system of two-tier treatment.
Much as we might smile at the thought of a hoard of raging beancounters rampaging through the streets of Queenstown, the fact remains that the town attracts many tourists minded, reasonably enough, to have a good time. It is a party town.
And the last thing we want is for the affluent visitor to be able to arrive, check their cash, and feel liberated to behave as badly as they like on the basis of how much they can ultimately afford to pay. Criminal behaviour gets rendered a recreational expense. Before long there would surely be a going rate for thumping someone and getting caught.
Sometimes that going rate can be expensive, we grant you. We're thinking less of the $1200 fine and $2000 emotional harm reparation imposed on Aussie plumber Nicholas Michael Jenkins last month for a "frenzied" assault - consult your most recent plumbers bill before deciding whether this is really such an eye-watering amount - than that of a Brisbane man, Daniel Christopher Loudon was ordered to pay $8100 for recklessly injuring a woman whom he accidentally hit when he was swinging a punch at another man while holding a glass. Sort of thing that could happen to any hotheaded oaf. * Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation. But you knew that already, surely?
- © Fairfax NZ News
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