Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Turei Defence

The Devil Made Me Do It

We are all familiar with the following justification offered for immoral, unethical or illegal behaviour: "the Devil made me do it."  It's a punchline amongst some grade B comics.  In New Zealand, we have been confronted with the Turei version of the trope: that is, "the System made me do it".  Metiria Turei, leader of the NZ Greens, was speaking, of course, of her deliberate actions to defraud the welfare benefit system when she was in law school, of all things.  

Her gratuitous appeals to self-pity have been somewhat nauseating.  But, nevertheless, her words and actions have proved useful.  Her gloss on the "Devil made me do it" punchline has now become known as the Turei Defence throughout the legal fraternity in cases of benefit fraud.  Turei justifiably stole from the taxpayer because the "benefit system made her do it."

At the same time as Turei's emblazoned defence of her fraud, a specific case hit the headlines.

Christchurch grandmother admits $250,000 welfare fraud

Grandmother Jasmine Kasiana Teowai Hudson is likely to spend her 63rd birthday in jail after pleading guilty to a $250,000 benefit fraud.  An appalled Judge Alistair Garland sent Hudson, who turns 63 in November, home on bail to sort out her affairs before sentencing next month.

Hudson pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court to rorting the welfare system of $246,872.96. At $20 a week repayments, it would take her 236 years to pay off the debt.   Over 15 years, Hudson received an invalid's benefit, a supported living benefit and reduced Housing New Zealand rent. . . . Life had at times been cruel to her and two of her four children were in jail. Her daughter was expecting her fourth baby.   "People don't know the in and outs," she said.

On Thursday, prosecutor Jennifer North said the ministry was recovering part of the overpayment from Hudson from the benefit she was now receiving.  "So the taxpayer is continuing to provide her with benefit? Good gracious," Judge Garland said. "Unbelievable".  North said the benefit fraud was not Hudson's first offence.  She will return to court for sentencing on August 25.
We have a certain sympathy for this lady.  Clearly, given the advanced state of the court case, she was unable to benefit from the (now celebrated) Turei defence.   After all, thousands sprang to laud Turei's actions and her version of  "the Devil made me do it" justification.  It is likely that the judge and the prosecutor in Jasmine Hudson's trial would have ended up apologising profusely to the defendant for the entirely inappropriate legal proceedings against her had the Turei defence been invented at the time.  How could this poor victim be made to suffer any blame when "the benefit system made her steal"?

Doubtless Hudson's counsel will recommend an appeal.  The Turei defence will serve as a profound moral force and powerful argument in her appeal.  There is little doubt the original conviction will be thrown out.  It is clear that Judge Garland and the Christchurch District Court took no account whatsoever of the Turei Defence which provides more than adequate justification for lying, fraud, and deception in order to nullify any attempt by authorities to reduce one's welfare payments.

Go, you good girl, go!

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