Gordon Ronald Forrest
THE Press, 4th September 2002
Justice Young told Gordon Ronald Forrest that he was an enigma - and then sent him to jail for 12 years for the armed robbery of the Akaroa bank. Forrest's criminal record ensured that the Christchurch courthouse had plenty of armed police in place when he was sentenced in the High Court yesterday. He has done between 12 and 14 armed robberies and has escaped four times from Australian jails.
Two escapes involved guns. In one, armed associates forced a prison van that was carrying Forrest off the road, and helped him to break out. Justice Young rejected the idea that when he came out of prison, Forrest - now 51 - would be too old to do more robberies. "Given that you look younger than that, and given your fitness, I am not so sanguine about it," said his Honour.
"I think that you are very likely to offend again." He set an eight-year minimum non-parole term. Forrest is a New Zealander, who grew up with an uneventful childhood, according to Justice Young. He is intelligent, extremely fit, and he has no drug or alcohol problems. It is understood that after he left school he worked as a bank teller in Milton, near Dunedin.
"You are very much an enigma," said his Honour, noting that Forrest did not begin criminal offending until he was 24. Four years later, in 1978, he went to jail in Australia for four armed robberies. In 1981 he robbed a bank in Lambton Quay, Wellington. He was identified but escaped to Australia on a false passport the same day. More jail time followed for more robberies in 1982. There were three prison escapes. On one occasion he escaped at gunpoint. On another, armed associates forced a prison van carrying him off the road, to allow him to escape.
One entry on his Australian record was an attempted escape, when the bars in his cell were found to have been sawn through. In 1988, still in Australia, he received a 14-year jail term for three more armed robberies. This was followed by another escape. When the sentence expired, he was sent back to New Zealand and arrested for the 1981 robbery in Wellington. He received a two- year suspended prison term.
He was still serving that term last year, hoping to settle down and help to care for his aged and sick mother, when he got into idle chat with a friend. The idle chat was about a bank robbery, and Forrest gave in to temptation. He arranged for an associate to provide a getaway car and a gun, and did the robbery, with a woollen sleeve cut off and pulled over his head as a disguise. He robbed two women tellers of $6400, and had to threaten two men with the gun after they chased him along the street.
"Both men who challenged you behaved with conspicuous courage, and very nearly managed to detain you," said his Honour. The getaway car was left in a reserve near Akaroa and Forrest was driven back to Christchurch by his co-offender. Only about $350 of the $6400 has been recovered. Forrest has admitted that the gun used in the robbery was loaded. A live round was found on the floor of the getaway car.
Crown prosecutor Pip Currie made application for Forrest to be given a sentence of preventive detention because of his record, but this was not possible because of the transitional arrangements under the new Sentencing Act which came into force in July. Defence counsel Gerald Lascelles said the robbery had not been well planned, and no violence had actually been used. He asked that the jail sentence not be too long. "Even the most reprehensible of offenders who have committed the most damning of offences should be given something in the way of hope," he said.
The officer in charge of the robbery investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Johnston, of the Christchurch police, said: "I thought the judge did a superb job of summing up the threat that Gordon Forrest represents to society. I agree with his comments that he will be a great risk when released from jail." He said the police had been thrilled about the assistance they received from Akaroa residents, and he would be reporting to the area police controller about the efforts of the men who tried to detain Forrest.
Date of Birth
Three Strikes Status
Sentenced to 12 years with a 8 year minimum non-parole period in September 2002
Successfully got his minimum non-parole period reduced to 6 years on appeal
Additional Photos & Files
Associated Media Links Gordon Ronald Forrest Appeal Notes
OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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