Brian Edwards Media

David Garrett writes to me and I respond.


This morning I received the following email from David Garrett:

Dear Dr. Edwards,

I watched your interview with Cam Slater on Sunday. During it, you could not resist denigrating me, and dredging up the “dead baby” issue yet again. The rest of the MSM have pretty well shaken all they could out of  the issue, but you attempted to breathe fresh life into it.

I wonder how long you think I should be punished for something I did 28 years ago – obtaining a false passport which was never used for any purpose? Something for which I apologised in writing to the family when the sorry business was unearthed in 2005, and for which I apologised publicly again at the time I left parliament.

Should I hide in shame for the rest of my life? Should I cease to voice an opinion publicly, even if asked to?  Should I perhaps do away with myself? Do tell.


David Garrett SC

I replied to Mr Garrett as follows:

Dear Mr Garrett

If you look through my writing on issues of crime and punishment, you will see that I have always taken the view that the seeds of crime, particularly violent crime, are generally to be found in the early childhood and adolescent experiences of the offenders. The children of loving parents rarely become criminals, though even there poverty and discrimination may be an issue. So I am seen as a wishy-washy liberal by many in this area and roundly criticised as a result.

I don’t of course believe that you should hide in shame for the rest of your life, not voice your opinions openly and certainly not do away with yourself. But as a prominent member of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, an organisation promoting longer and longer sentences for offenders and expressing support for the introduction of hard labour and chain gangs to deal with criminals in New Zealand, your appeal for understanding and forgiveness rings rather hollow in my ears. My remarks about you on The Nation were made with that in mind.


Brian Edwards

This from David Garrett today (8 November):

McVicar and I disagree – publicly – on several important issues, among them the correct treatment of offenders who are mentally ill at the time they commit their crime, and subsequently. As I suggested, I doubt you agree with every policy proposed by the Labour Party either.

BE: Fair enough, David.

, , ,


  1. I’m not without some sympathy for David Garrett. I am uncomfortable, that you are dredging up his unfortunate mistake to use as a political weapon to undermine his support for the Sensible Sentencing Trust. It does smack of an ad hominem swipe.
    Let bygones be bygones.

    BE: I have no interest at all in undermining Mr Garrett’s support for the Sensible Sentencing Trust. But if you belong to an organisation that shows no interest at all in ‘letting bygones be bygones’ for offenders, but on the contrary espouses draconian and brutal punishments for them, you are likely to be judged by the company you keep.

    On The Nation, Cameron Slater also expressed the same view that bygones should be bygones in the case of his new contributor, Mr Garrett, but had previously expressed the view privately in the green room that those ‘scum’ (offenders) in South Auckland should be tossed into prison and we should throw away the key. Not exactly consistent.

  2. Is David Garrett someone who should have SC after his name?I find both ACT and The Sensible Sentencing Trust hard to understand ,particularly considering their members.I agree with your position and find David Garrett whose actions and words do not coexist easily.

  3. I suspect – and I apologise to David if I have this wrong – that his attitudes may have moderated a little since his youthful indiscretion was revealed. Certainly having engaged with him in the blogosphere I’ve found him to be far more open to debate, and even to shifting his viewpoint than, say, Garth McVicar. I’ve also found his points of view – while I don’t agree with most of them – to at least have a basis in fact and research (we just interpret the facts differently, and thus arrive at different prescriptions for change).

    I had not had the chance to communicate with David pre-Parliament so I’m not sure whether his more reasonable post-Parliament incarnation is as a result of being reminded that even our lawmakers can, and often do, have feet of clay or whether he felt it necessary during his time with ACT to adopt a more aggressive, no compromise style.

    But ironically, now he has been driven from the Parliament I’d much prefer him in it. Because invariably *someone* will take the “tough on law ‘n’ order” position and I’d rather it be someone who understands – for whatever reason – that we are all subject to human frailty, that we all commit unforced errors, and that the majority of us are redeemable, as was he.

  4. Did someone forget to tell you that there’s an election on and who cares what “dr” edwards had to say?

  5. Hah. The guy’s odd, no question, and his alignment with Sensible Sentencing besmirches any noble aspirations that mob might have. He’s the friend you never want to have, the poacher turned gamekeeper via frontal lobotomy. The ‘poor me’ tone in his complaint sums him up nicely.

    JC: Edited.

  6. @ Mark Barker.

    I saw your intended post, before it was edited by JC.

    You really are a nasty piece of work. And you need to take your vindictive toxic malice, elsewhere. Begone!

  7. When you dredged up the very old regrettable error of David Garrett’s I somehow sent my mind back several decades.
    And I tried to think who it was he was referring to when the member for Tamaki remarked that;
    “Some doctors make you well and some doctors make you sick.”

    BE: ?????????

  8. Tauhei Notts November 7th, 2012 at 16:56

    When you dredged up the very old regrettable error of David Garrett’s I somehow sent my mind back several decades.
    And I tried to think who it was he was referring to when the member for Tamaki remarked that;
    “Some doctors make you well and some doctors make you sick.”

    So correct and with some the term “dr” is actaually a fraudulent use of the English language derived from socilist University use.

    BE: Your last paragraph is utter nonsense.

  9. It smacks somewhat of hypocrisy when you, Dr Edwards, take snide shots at someone who has done more to protect low income communities from vicious criminals than any politician in living memory. It doesn’t take a lot of research to confirm that the victims of those impacted by SST policies & Three Strikes live alongside those who prey on them.

    David Garrett has paid many times over for his sins yet it would seem that you begrudge him the right to hold opinions. For someone who has made a grubby living coaching socialist political hacks to lie by omission & spin their crappy policies you seem an unlikely candidate for the sainthood you claim.

    BE: as it happens, I applaud the work of the SST on behalf of victims and have told Garth McVicar so personally. But I abhor his and the organisation’s Dickensian views on punishment.

    In a quarter of a century as a media consultant I have never advised a client, including 4 Prime Ministers to lie or dissemble. My advice has always been the same: be straightforward, tell the truth; admit your mistakes. That’s what works. Perhaps you should stick to things you know about rather than defaming me.

  10. Looking ahead to the general election in 2014 its a sure bet NZ will follow the US election with the main difference being voters in NZ are four years behind. Bush, Brash, Key, Hyde, Banks, Garrett, all share the same bag. Good riddance too bad rubbish.

  11. Passport fraud would not rank either as criminal violence or as a qualification for the three strikes law. Therefore introducing it to the debate can only be seen as an ad hominem attack or a distraction tactic.

    Sensible Sentencing however extreme are concerned with protecting victims of violent crime. Taking issue with their solutions should be based on efficacy, not personalities.

    BE: See my reply to Nasska

  12. Brian, this is not a good look for you. Bringing up the historic crass misdeeds of a feckless young man, with the reiteration of “Dead baby”, is going way beyond a pointed barb. It is such a raw and emotive phrase, meant to not only humiliate but also to open up an old wound. Hitting below the belt is bad enough but did you really need to kick him in the nether regions as well?

    BE: How do you think the baby’s parents felt?

  13. “BE: as it happens, I applaud the work of the SST on behalf of victims and have told Garth McVicar so personally. But I abhor his and the organisation’s Dickensian views on punishment.”

    Your applause is ill-founded, Brian. There’s a great deal of research that suggests forgiveness, provided it is matched by genuine remorse on the part of the offender, gives the victim / survivor a much healthier prognosis than hanging on to your anger and watching it corrode into bitterness.

    Almost without exception, victims who’ve been through a Restorative Justice process report feeling as though a burden has been lifted from them – they can let go of the negative feelings and move on.

    McVicar and the SST, OTOH, stoke the bitterness and use it to conjour emotive imagery for our soundbite-driven media. They’re emotional vampires, feeding off the misery of others. And they do so because they know that if he didn’t have the latest distraught victim to hide behind, McVicar would warrant no more attention than any redneck angrily demanding flogging be brought back over a jug at his local.

    On another note: A PhD is a fraudulent socialist construct? George W Bush had a Harvard MBA, which presumably qualifies him for, at the very least, membership of the Politburo, I assume?

  14. BE: How do you think the baby’s parents felt?

    I am not joking. I am truly stunned! Here you are, bemoaning why we can’t exercise leniency and bestow love-and-embrace on our very worst, recidivist criminals and, yet, you — The Merciful Forgiver — are intent on cauterising Garrett’s old wounds with a red-hot branding iron. And a Stanley knife for good measure.

    FYI, I know how the baby’s parents felt. You know. David Garrett knows. We all know. And thanks to you, the parents can relive the whole ugly episode all over, again.

    BE: well actually I made a spontaneous comment during a TV discussion that is recorded live. The issue here is not the seriousness of what Mr Garrett did, but the inconsistency of his ongoing (and it is ongoing) association with an organisation for whom no amount of punishment for wrongdoers is ever enough. Had he not written to me effectively complaining about my harsh treatment of him, the matter would have rested there.

    As it happens, I do feel some sympathy for him. His letter to me expresses considerable anguish, which was in part my reason for publishing it. The other part was the glaring irony of his membership of and work for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, to whom the idea of compassion for offenders as well as their victims seems anathema.

  15. “Do the crime, do the time.”

    Start anew.

    I wish this was true.

    I am personally aware of many people who have been found guilty of relatively harmless criminal behaviour (and some of a rather more serious nature)who many ,many years later are barred fro0m participating in occupations simply because of a criminal record, often decades old with no re-offending.

    When does “the time” stop?

    I do admit to having no sympathy for the sensible sentencing trust. It is an organisation that appears to have a sadistic desire for prisoners.

    Mr Garret appears to “protest too much.”

  16. BE: “on the contrary espouses draconian and brutal punishments for them”

    Huhh? Brian, you speak of the dregs of society – a few more years in the Sing-Sing to keep them focussed onn the road ahead is not draconian; a bit of rock-breaking in return for $100k pa of free board and rent, with TV thrown in, is not brutal, particularly by the standards of the scum you seek to rehabilitate. The people of whom the SST speak are not late speeding-fine payers, drunks or petty shoplifters – they’re arseholes of the first order…..

    And as for David Garrett – your crime was hardly a silly mistake – it would’ve taken months of careful planning and research. It was stupid, but no mistake.

    BE: I’m not a great believer in the concept of “the dregs of society”. I’ve deleted your joke because I think it’s inappropriate in the context of the topic.)

  17. Re Tauhei Notts November 7th, 2012 at 16:56

    “Some doctors make you well and some doctors make you sick.”

    “BE: ?????????”

    I’m guessing, that Mr./Master/Mrs./Miss. or Miz Notts is saying: that there are two kinds of doctors; one that is medical, and the other being academic (as in a Ph.D.). I’m further guessing, that the “member for Tamaki” was Robert Muldoon, and you that you made him feel queasy.
    I could be wrong, but that’s how I interpreted the thread.

    BE: On this topic here’s a little story against myself. I used to host a talk-back show on Radio Windy. My guest on one occasion was Dr Erich Geiringer. A woman caller commented that it was nice to have ‘two doctors in the studio.’ In an uppity way I replied that there was actually only one real doctor in the studio since I was the only one with a PhD. In Dr Geiringer’s case his ‘Doctor’ was merely a job description. Erich replied, ‘In that case, Dr Edwards, there are three doctors in the studio since I have a Ph.D from the University of Vienna and a Ph.D from Heidelberg.’ (The universities may be wrong – it’s 40 years ago.) I was well and truly put in my place.

  18. The inappropriate joke from which Brian has saved you all (and particularly David Garrett, who clearly doesn’t need reminding anyway) is a parable which illustrates that no matter how long you live the good life thereafter, you will always be remembered for the reckless behaviour of your youth.

    BE: Perfect, Zinc.

  19. I have just been informed that you took it upon yourself to publish what was intended to be a private communication…I accept I did not make that clear, so I guess I got what I should have expected.

    Someone has picked up the “SC” after my name in my original communication. I wonder whether it was further malice on your part to delete from my message the reference to Garrett & Associates of Tonga – where I am indeed a Senior Counsel in good standing – and leave the SC to give rise to exactly what your commenter has done? No doubt his complaint to the Law Society is on its way.

    Being a charitable chap at heart, I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

    BE: In both matters, David, I deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s correct that you gave no indication that your email to me was intended as private correspondence. Further, it was addressed to my website.

    My motive in publishing your original email was in part that it expressed the hurt which my comment on The Nation had caused you and in part to explain the context in which I had made that remark, to justify my having made it if you like.

    I think if you read the comments to date and my responses, you’ll find that there is considerable support for the viewpoint that I was wrong to open such an old wound. Others are less charitable.

    I deleted your company details and address because I did not want to make them publicly available. That, believe it or not, was to protect your privacy. I didn’t want people contacting you directly. If that proved unhelpful, I’m sorry.

    Finally, there is perhaps an irony in both our positions. Your ongoing relationship with Sensible Sentencing does not sit easily with your sense of grievance about your own crime being re-visited years later; my dredging it up again does not sit easily with the strong emphasis on understanding and compassion for offenders which is expressed in much of my previous writing. Maybe we both have something to learn from this.



    This is outrageous! As if the sentence of home detention wasn’t draconian, enough. Now, on appeal, the poor man has to go to jail. If the police (vis-à-vis the Solicitor-General) wanted their pound of flesh, why could the man not have served 10 hours of community service at the public library or the TAB?

    Where is the Love, the Compassion, the Goodness, the Forgiveness, the Understanding; the Whanau, the Restorative Justice hand-holding, WINZ and CYFS staffers to guide, nurture and teach? Why, are all the Government agencies not marshalled together, to help this poor man in his hour of need? Why does he need to go to jail? Where is the love and understanding, which will set him right?

  21. This reminds me of a joke.

    BE: I have to be consistent, Pete. I took this same joke out of another comment, because it’s inappropriate in the context of the David Garrett issue. So I’ve taken it out of your comment.

  22. This discussion imho re-emphasises why those not directly involved in the justice system should take great care in commenting on it. Having seen all sides of our system (including both 5 years as a court reporter and being subjected to a number of police raids, SIS surveillance, etc) and despite having witnessed many abuses of justice (in its purist form) both for and against those accused, I retain the view that New Zealand’s courts are to a very large extent both independent and bipartisan and in general best able to deliver appropriate verdicts and sentences in each individual case.

    Any system has flaws, but I think we should remind ourselves that ours is arguably proven one of the best – and be thankful for it.

    Of course we need to be vigilant to ensure it remains so; and nor do I suggest it couldn’t be improved; but unqualified comment (yes, such as from McVicar – or even yourself, Brian) from outside the system needs to be placed in that context.

    (I hope that doesn’t make me sound like an apologist for the system; I’m not. I simply think we don’t give enough credit to the positives we have.)

  23. I am always greatly amused by people who seem to think that being in prison is some sort of cake walk. As one of your respondents put it: “Free board with TV thrown in”. Most people who make statements such as that have never been within a hundred miles of a prison. I have, not just in this country but in the UK as well. My professional life has taken me into most of the prisons in both countries. Prisons are horrible places and most people who experience them try and avoid doing so again. The Sensible Sentencing Trust is right to speak up for the victims of crime but has no credentials for its penological views and the media should stop turning to them and their ill informed spokespersons whenever such issues arise.

  24. @ Tony Simpson.
    what a load of rubbish. I’ve been in contact with a lot of criminals and I’ve been in prisons. An attitude of denial doesn’t indicate repentance or suffering. Thank God for those like the SST who see through this bullshit though it may not currently be trendy with your latte drinking crowd.

  25. BE: Your comment deleted. Offensive and dangerous.

  26. Passport fraud is hardly a trivial issue when it’s a common tactic used by terrorists and drug lords.

    As for McVicar, his idol just happens to be an avid ‘birther’ conspiracist. Not only that, said idol has also been probed by the Feds. Draw your own conclusions.

    It’s unfortunate when faith-based dogma threatens to crowd out actual victim support.

  27. DeepRed, your brains are fried. I don’t know if you’re coming or going, or just plain spaced-out.

  28. And Tilbury, the facts seem to either scare you, or they bore your pants off.

  29. A Senior Counsel in Tonga in good standing, huh? They don’t care about your assault conviction in Tonga from 2002 then, presumably?

    Goodness me.