Non-custodial sentence inappropriate

In delivering a non-custodial sentence in the Janet Moses makutu case, Justice Simon France noted that expert witnesses considered the perpetrators were not acting out any customary cultural or religious practice. The appropriateness of a non-custodial sentence for manslaughter has been rightly questioned. Of additional concern, however, is that a golden opportunity appears to have been missed to condemn the very idea of makutu, that someone can be possessed by an evil entity necessitating a special curse-lifting ceremony or exorcism. Exorcisms, of course, are not confined to Maori culture.

Surely the time is long overdue for totally discarding all such outmoded notions of a pre-scientific age, and in particular makutu itself given that it can engender barbaric practices and lead to tragic consequences. Justice France has been reported as even expressing the view “Makutu did not kill her. She drowned”, seemingly completely overlooking the fact that it was an insane belief in makutu that generated all that followed.

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