Jeremy Dean Toimata
From the Waikato Times 29th October 2003
The leader of a Hamilton extortion ring which targeted Chinese students has had his sentence cut after his parents paid $64,000 to the victims. Justice campaigners say the decision does not reflect what society wants. In the Hamilton District Court yesterday, Judge Neil McLean cut Yiyu Zhang's sentence from 14 to 10 1/2 years' jail because of the reparation and his guilty plea during the trial. The law requires judges to consider reparation.
But Act NZ Party justice spokesman Stephen Franks said reparation should be an aggravating, rather than a mitigating factor. "Judges, I think, are not reflecting the fact that compensation and reparation are what any decent society expects. And the person who can afford to make reparation payments and doesn't, should be penalised," he said. Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman Garth McVicar said reparation was not reducing offending and was failing to hold criminals accountable. In many cases, it was being ordered but not paid, he said.
Zhang, 23, faced 39 charges including robbery, kidnapping and demanding with menaces. The charges relate to incidents in Hamilton and Raglan between March and October last year. The eight victims have received a total of $64,000 in reparation payments.Judge McLean said there were two issues to consider -- reparation and Zhang's guilty plea, which he made in the middle of the eight- week trial.
Judge McLean acknowledged Zhang's parents' "meaningful offer of reparation" and said while the issue raised concern from some that people could buy justice, that was not the correct approach. "The correct approach is to recognise the benefit of reparation."The judge said the victim impact statements contained mixed views on reparation. "There are messages coming through from some of forgiveness and appreciativeness of the reparation paid. In other cases no amount of money seems to be of any great significance."
Defence lawyer Tom Sutcliffe said Zhang's parents were not wealthy and had limited ability to travel to New Zealand and see their son. His parents had met the victim's families in China, and offered their apologies, he said. Judge McLean said Zhang's evidence had proved to be a two-edge sword for the Crown and the jury took it "with a substantial grain of salt", which may explain the number of acquittals, he said.
Zhang's co-accused, Jeremy Dean Toimata, 19, originally charged with 24 offences but found guilty of 10 in relation to two of the four incidents, was jailed for seven years. Chen Chung Yen, 20, was charged with 14 offences, and found guilty of eight in relation to a kidnapping and robbery of three students in March 2002. He was jailed for 4 years 6 months and ordered to pay $2000 to Zhu Zhang, the only one of his victims still in New Zealand.
Guangyi Ma has already been jailed for 15 months for attempting to pervert the course of justice. The three Chinese men, eligible for release after serving a third of their sentence, will be deported upon their release. Lawyers for Yen and Toimata blamed Zhang for their clients' situations, but Mr Sutcliffe said Zhang fed off the encouragement and support of those around him.
Date of Birth
24 charges involving armed robbery, assault with a weapon, kidnapping and injuring with intent to injure in Hamilton and Raglan between March and October 2002
Three Strikes Status
Chen Chung Yen
Sentenced to 7 years total in October 2003
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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