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Public want better protection from high-risk offenders

Opinion Piece

The family of murder victim Blessie Gotingco obviously have a huge amount of public support as they seek to hold the Corrections Department responsible for “mismanagement and non-monitoring of evil”. Their online appeal for funds to help in this “biggest challenge of our life” raised $90,000 within 24 hours — a clear signal that thousands of New Zealanders do not accept the findings of a government inquiry.

Blessie Gotingco was run over, raped and killed by Tony David Robertson in May 2014 as she was walking home.

Last week an inquiry found that there had been no fault in the monitoring of Robertson, a violent offender who was released on parole the previous December.

The finding left the Gotingco family devastated. A statement from the family said they had been overwhelmed and reduced to tears by the outpouring of support — which, along with the donations, shows that New Zealanders have had enough and demand stricter monitoring of high-risk offenders, consistent with international best practice.

The Gotingcos are seeking the funding to conduct their own review of the case, with a view to taking a civil suit against Corrections if it shows they have legal grounds to do so.

The family are not alone in their reaction to the no-faults finding of the inquiry. The fact that it has resulted in 27 recommendations for improving the monitoring of high-risk offenders like Robertson seems to contradict the finding.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins is right to a point when she says Robertson alone is responsible for Blessie Gotingco’s death, but the department has a responsibility to protect the public and in this case it failed to do so.

Robertson had been convicted of the abduction and rape of a young girl in late 2005, and had been declined parole three times before his release. He was wearing an ankle bracelet with GPS and was under curfew.

The Gotingcos will probably get the financial support they need to proceed but it would be much better if a robust and independent inquiry could be established, paid for by the government.