Theodore Dalrymple, in New Zealand for a meeting on crime, mentions some points that will surprise most of us:
But even if I had not been invited to New Zealand by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, I would have been alerted by reading the daily press to the existence of a dark side of New Zealand life: For every day there were stories of criminal brutality to which the official reaction seemed inadequate, or even casual.
On one day, a young man accused of murder made a vulgar and menacing gesture, in the very court in which he was being tried, to the sister of his alleged victim. Such a gesture could only have been indicative of the deepest possible contempt for the law, a contempt that was no doubt the fruit of long experience.
The day before, I had read of a young man who had attacked an old woman viciously, fracturing two of her facial bones and causing her other injuries from which it is unlikely that she will ever make a full physical or psychological recovery. For this, he was sentenced to a year's imprisonment. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that New Zealand is a country in which young men may with impunity attack old ladies with a murderous intensity; indeed, the government might as well issue them with an invitation to do so.
Of course, terrible things have always been reported in newspapers, for the reason first that they are interesting and second that they have always happened. In this sense, there is nothing new under the sun. But the statistics, as well as daily experience, tell the same story: Despite New Zealand's relative prosperity, it has the doubtful honour of being among the most violent and crime-ridden societies in the West.