When ‘sweet­est things’ go astray

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

It sounded typ­i­cally tragic.

She’s 19, and her last job was in a jew­ellery store but she’s “for­merly” a model who is now in trou­ble over drugs – like thou­sands of other teenagers.

Her fam­ily is stricken by the hor­ror of it – just as many in the sub­urbs are.

Her po­lice file talks of ar­rests, searches, mar­i­juana, P, smok­ing gear, breaches of bail and sadly there is noth­ing spe­cial about those facts ei­ther.

She’s been go­ing through courts heav­ily over­loaded by cases like hers, tak­ing her place along­side hun­dreds of oth­ers.

She was tense, fid­gety, tear­ful too, as so many are.

And she crossed her fin­gers hop­ing to avoid jail – which she did.

Her step­fa­ther made a plea for dis­charge with­out a con­vic­tion, which would stuff up her life even more.

She’s not a dealer but a $1000 a day user, an ad­dict who started when she was 13.

She was sim­ply some­one who was, in dad’s words: “The sweet­est thing who went to a very bad place.”

How many par­ents could say that – and might in the fu­ture? Or fear they will?

He spoke mov­ingly of P as “a scur­rilous drug”, la­belling peo­ple who deal in it “hideous”, and pledged to get the com­mu­nity to fo­cus on it and its out­comes.

The judge ruled her “mod­er­ately se­ri­ous” of­fend­ing war­ranted no more than a year’s su­per­vi­sion with con­tin­ued re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

There were tears of re­gret and re­lief. And the court moved on to the next tragic tale.

You don’t know about the cases be­fore and af­ter hers, the tragedies and lives ru­ined in the painful, self-im­posed and un­nec­es­sary process.

But now you know the facts of her con­vic­tion and her face as well as you know her step­fa­ther.

And that is out of all pro­por­tion to the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fences be­cause what’s in­volved is a wor­ry­ing twist on an old say­ing about chil­dren be­ing pun­ished for the sins of their par­ents.

To­day’s ver­sion has chil­dren be­ing pun­ished for the suc­cess of their par­ents – and par­ents suf­fer­ing for the frail­ties of their chil­dren.

Did the crime war­rant all the close-ups of her in the dock on TV news or the stage by stage, de­tail by de­tail head­lines?

I’m not de­fend­ing her – she had a lawyer and a step­fa­ther to do that. But the cov­er­age of her case got all out of whack.

For what the judge de­scribed as “mod­er­ately se­ri­ous” we had treat­ment you’d have ex­pected from a re­play of the mil­lions, mur­der and may­hem of the Mr Asia af­fair.

All be­cause her step­fa­ther is “a celeb”, one of our high-fly­ers.

Like an­other: The 31-year-old fac­ing metham­phetaminere­lated charges, and more to come, who also hap­pens to be the es­tranged step­daugh­ter of an­other celeb.

You’d recog­nise her step­mother’s name and face in­stantly – but not in this col­umn you won’t.

Again, the same com­po­nents – a familiar name in the head­ing, and a face from the glitzy week­end col­umns.

There’s also the same pat­tern of gen­uine­ly­held re­grets.

“As a fam­ily we are deeply sad­dened. If she is found to have bro­ken the law, she will have to face the con­se­quences.

“But re­gard­less of the cur­rent cir­cum­stances, her fam­ily will con­tinue to be there for her if she chooses to ac­cept our help.”

All the things less well-known par­ents get to say in private.

None of them face the big head­lines, the hype, the cam­era crews run­ning af­ter a shat­tered fam­ily and their con­victed child.

They at least get pri­vacy for the un­der­stand­able an­guish they face – pri­vacy ev­ery­one should be en­ti­tled to re­gard­less of the re­flexes cer­tain names pro­voke in news­rooms. What an in­ter­est­ing co­in­ci­dence that sit­ting Labour MP Dianne Yates de­cided to re­sign and give the party the chance of a list seat in the house for Su’a William Sio so soon af­ter he was named as its gen­eral elec­tion can­di­date op­pos­ing con­tro­ver­sial and ban­ished Labour MP Taito Phillip Field, now an in­de­pen­dent in Man­gere.

That’s where whole­sale groom­ing of Pa­cific Is­land vot­ers by peo­ple like Labour pres­i­dent Mike Wil­liams gave gov­ern­ment the seat, the tac­ti­cally im­por­tant party vote and the break­through it needed last time to get an­other three years in power.

Re­mem­ber the Wil­liams mantra when TV polling night com­men­ta­tors pre­dicted a Labour de­feat: “I’d wait un­til the south Auck­land to­tals come in if I was you.”

He knew some­thing – with those votes in, so was Labour.

The res­ig­na­tion al­lowed Sio to travel to his Samoan birth­place to re­ceive the bless­ing of the el­ders of his par­ents’ vil­lages.

That could well be seen by some as an as­set in a bat­tle against Taito Field.

The Yates de­ci­sion and the Sio pro­mo­tion couldn’t have been bet­ter if Labour’s back­room strate­gists had planned it.

Con­tact Pat Booth email: off­pat@snl. co.nz.

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