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The power of rehabilitation

24 Mar 2023

| Author: Jasmine Jackson

Sentencing – possession of methamphetamine for supply – conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine – unlawful possession of a firearm – home detention – culpability – Zhang v R [2019] NZCA 507– s 27 Sentencing Act 2002 – cultural report – drug addiction – rehabilitation – cultural dissociation – family support – community involvement

R v Jeffrey Maraenui Gear [2023] NZHC 432 (Palmer J)

Jeffrey Gear appeared for sentencing on charges of possession of methamphetamine for supply, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a firearm.

A starting point of five years was agreed upon by both Crown and defence counsel for the two methamphetamine offences as the circumstances of Gear’s offending aligned with bands 2 and 3 of Zhang v R [2019] NZCA 507. A further uplift of six months was imposed for the firearm charge with the overall starting point being five years and six months’ imprisonment.

Gear’s pre-sentence report assessed his likelihood of reoffending as low but the risk of harm as medium. Furthermore, Gear had 27 previous convictions dating back to 1992 but no uplift was imposed. A 20% discount for early guilty pleas was awarded.

A cultural report under s 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002 assisted the court in providing background which in turn helped with assessing Gear’s overall culpability. The report traversed a dysfunctional childhood, an undiagnosed learning disability and physical discipline. Gear had left school by 13, was addicted to drugs and engaging in criminal activity. He had been smoking methamphetamine every day for the last 25 years. A 15% reduction was given to reflect Gear’s personal background and thus his reduced culpability.

Gear had made significant rehabilitative efforts warranting a 15% discount. Whilst on EM bail, he completed three rehabilitative drug and violence programs and had become a member of NA, AA and STOP.

Furthermore, he had been offered a scholarship involving 15 hours’ paid work per week to train as a facilitator for the mana-enhancing program “STOP-METH” and he and his wife had established Hapu Collective, an organisation which provides wraparound services for recovering addicts.

Gear received a 10-month discount for the time spent in custody and on EM bail.

Held: The court’s recognition of the significant rehabilitation steps Gear had already made, coupled with his involvement in the community, resulted in a sentence of 11 months’ home detention.

Jasmine Jackson is an Auckland criminal defence barrister and a member of the ADLS Parole Law Committee

2023-NZHC-432 (1)

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