A challenge for the judges (would you believe?) is finding a fit punishment for a repeat offender

The bloody justice system is short on punishment options.

It’s not a matter of finding a punishment to fit the crime. It’s a ludicrous matter of finding a punishment to fit the offender.

A Dunedin bloke has avoided a sentence of community detention because a phobia of electricity prevents him from wearing the electronic monitoring bracelet.

Does this mean that (a) if we still had capital punishment and (b) the electric chair was the means by which we carried out the death penalty then (c) this bugger would be given an exemption if he committed a capital crime?

The mind boggles.

But we learn today that Tony James Robinson, 24, developed electrophobia in 2010 after he touched power lines with metal spouting he was removing from a roof.

In March, he was sentenced to community work and intensive supervision for his third driving while disqualified conviction, and for making a false statement to police.

But he may end up facing no penalty.

Yep. Our namby-pamby justice system is about to treat him very leniently.

However we try to deal with him, he has a “get out of jail” card for the circumstances.

For starters, he turned up to his community work with an ACC certificate relating to injuries he sustained when he touched the 11,000-volt line with a length of spouting.

Robinson was keen to do his community work, we are told, but his health meant nothing suitable for him could be found.

What to do?

A district court judge substituted the order with a sentence of community detention.

Great – except that this would include an electronic ankle bracelet.

Nah. That’s not a goer.

Robinson appealed to the High Court at Dunedin, pointing out that his pre-sentence report noted his fear of electricity.

The report said that although Robinson was prepared to endure the anxiety of the bracelet rather than face prison, he was unsuitable for an electronically monitored sentence.

Robinson’s lawyer told the court the bracelet was “simply impractical and impossible because of his genuine health situation”.

Did the judge laugh this out of court?


Justice French agreed. She was reluctant to cancel the community work, leaving nothing in its place. “On the other hand, I accept this is a most unusual situation.”

What about a monetary penalty?

Forget it.

A fine was not practical because he already had outstanding fines.

Oh dear. The poor bugger is broke, eh?

Not necessarily.

The ruling did not mention the $15,000 his employer, Otago Continuous Spouting, was ordered to pay him for “emotional harm reparation” after he was electrocuted.

Obviously, he will soon be able to pay his fines.

Whether the courts will swoop to collect their dues once he has pocketed his $15,000 is a moot point. They seem sadly disinclined to chase up unpaid fines.

As to the latest offence, the judge quashed the detention sentence and confirmed the cancellation of the community work.

She ordered Robinson to come up for sentence if called upon within a year.

And this lamentably means that if this bugger does not not reoffend, he will face no penalty.

Why the judge did not consider a jail term is beyond Alf’s ken.

Mind you, we can’t rule out that Tony James Robinson can demonstrate he is claustrophobic, too. Or that he has dietary demands that require he be served a dozen oysters and champagne at least once a day.

It’s not that he can do no wrong. It’s just that when he has done wrong, the justice system is bereft of ideas for punishing him.

One Response to A challenge for the judges (would you believe?) is finding a fit punishment for a repeat offender

  1. Ye olde-fashioned ball & chain!

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