Forty-five year old Dean Shaw, a company director and wine maker in Central Otago, NZ, has managed to get off ‘scott free’ on a charge of possessing LSD, a charge that attracts up to 6 months imprisonment. His lawyer argued that if Shaw was to be convicted he would be unable to travel overseas as part of marketing his wine.  Okay, Shaw was found by police with only 9 tabs – not enough to put him in the band of sentences that expose him to life imprisonment for dealing. Judge Neave is reported as saying Shaw appeared to be having a ‘mid life crisis’.

I don’t know about Judge Neave, but I like my wine. However, that wouldn’t make me more inclined to let Shaw walk without consequences. Was this defendant’s brain so addled that he couldn’t think through the consequences of criminal offending until after he was caught? Are judges so determined to be in touch with the fall in community standards that they overlook one of the most important  – that we take responsibility for our actions?

That decision to effectively acquit this man, despite his admission of the offence, is a slap in the face for police and, by implication, the rest of the law abiding community. It’s a clear message  not to bother bringing to court, prominent people if their offending is small scale and they have the ability to wail that they and their business will suffer for their poor judgement.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t be given a chance. I have in mind young offenders whose brain and maturity of judgement is still developing up to 25 years of age.  But a mature businessman? Come on! His age and his prominence in the community are aggravating features of this case. If anyone knows better, Shaw does.

And why wasn’t his name suppressed as well? Well it might’ve been had not our law makers finally had the sense to clarify grounds for suppressing defendant’s names. Section 200 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 says, “The fact that a defendant is well known does not, of itself, mean that publication of his or her name will result in extreme hardship…” Perhaps our legislation around discharging without conviction needs to catch up.