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Published on stuff.co.nz 31/10/2013

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/6061035/Seal-killers-jail-sentence-cut

A Marlborough man jailed for two years for killing 23 seals will spend the rest of his sentence on home detention.

From his parents’ Wairau Valley home last night, Jason Trevor Godsiff, 20, said he was happy he had won his appeal in the High Court in Wellington.

Justice Mallon released him from jail to serve eight months home detention.

Godsiff said he was pleased to be out of prison and his family was delighted to have him home.

Other than thanking his supportive friends and family, Godsiff declined to make any further comment.

Family friend Alison Parr said family and friends were “absolutely delighted” with the result.

It was a huge relief and justice had been served, she said.

“All his supporters and friends and family agree that what Jason did deserved punishment, but prison was never the place for a young man of that character and that background, and we believe the original sentence wasn’t the correct one,” she said.

The Department of Conservation declined to comment on the appeal.

Godsiff had admitted killing 23 seals near Ohau Point on the Kaikoura coast by hitting them over the head with a galvanised pole on November 26 last year.

Judge Ian Mill sent him to prison when he appeared in the Blenheim District Court in September.

Godsiff’s lawyer, Gary Sawyer, appealed in the High Court in Wellington on November 1, arguing the prison term was excessive.

Judge Mill had not given Godsiff enough credit for his youth, good character, remorse and co-operation with police, he said.

He “over-weighted” the scale of the offending and did not take into account the lack of sadism and extended cruelty to the animals in comparison with other cases, Sawyer said.

Judge Mill also had not considered home detention, he said.

Those serving home detention stay at an approved residence, wear an electronic ankle bracelet and are electronically monitored and are under supervision by a probation officer.

Judges can consider home detention if the end sentence is two years in prison or less.

At the appeal, Crown prosecutor Jodi Ongley said the starting point of the sentence was appropriate given the number of seals killed, which was at the “middle to upper range of seriousness”.

Judge Mill had given enough consideration to Godsiff’s personal circumstances, such as his age and previous good character, she said.

Godsiff did not show genuine remorse for his actions and his co-operation with police was limited, she said.

Those factors were taken into account with the credit given for his guilty plea, she said.

Justice Mallon agreed with Sawyer in her decision, released to The Marlborough Express yesterday, and quashed the prison sentence.

Judges set a starting point for imprisonment based on previous cases and the Sentencing Act.

As part of sentencing they have to take into account the aggravating and mitigating factors unique to the case.

Judge Mill agreed with Godsiff’s pre-sentence report, which did not recommend home detention because Godsiff’s job as a builder’s apprentice required travelling.

He said home detention was not an adequate sentence for the “deliberate ill-treatment on this scale”.

Justice Mallon said the reason for not recommending home detention was not relevant and the practicalities of travel could be worked out with the probation officer.

“He [Godsiff] is in all respects a suitable candidate for home detention,” she said in the decision.

“He is a hard-working young man who will contribute better to society the sooner he is back working as a builder.

“It seems that he has learnt from the reaction to his offending that his behaviour was unacceptable.” 

The man with Godsiff the night of the offending, Jemaal Peter Roy Large, 36, a driver, of Wairau Valley, has denied the same charge.

He has also denied a charge of possessing an offensive weapon.

He is due to appear in court again on February 14.