Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Judge Joe Williams has spoken out about a disturbing case involving a Stratford woman who fought back against false allegations of fraud, made by the Ministry of Social Development.
Work and Income has had its hand smacked by the High Court appeal judge after it brought prosecutions against a Taranaki woman "struggling to cope". She's struggling to cope because WINZ are unfairly persecuting her and discriminating against her.
Sonja Marie Lawson, 38, of Stratford, won her appeal against a sentence that ordered her to come up for sentencing if called upon within 12 months.
She had been convicted after a defended hearing in the Hawera District Court on three counts of using a telephone to annoy and offend.
In overturning the sentence, Justice Joseph Williams said: "It would be most unfortunate, indeed, if the ministry displayed an equal inability to cope with persons of unusual or eccentric perception. That might lead one to conclude that the ministry has also lost its sense of proportion with this individual."
Justice Williams said he accepted Lawson's aims were merely to draw attention to disputes with the three organisations.
The faxes expressed her deep frustration at the inability of those organisations to see her view.
Lawson intended to use inflammatory language to annoy, disturb and irritate so the organisations would pay attention to her plight. The language was also an accurate expression of the extreme feeling of powerlessness and frustration she was experiencing as a result of the actions of ministry staff such as Roger Wells.
In dismissing the appeal against the convictions, the judge said there was no doubt the faxes were wanton and malicious.
The judge said Lawson's counsel also appealed against the sentence, arguing the order to come up if called on was manifestly excessive.
Counsel said Lawson had been charged with further Work and Income offences the very next day she received that sentence and feared that the Ministry of Social Development would continue its campaign against her and seek to prosecute her again in order to activate the sentence.
Miss Lawson is adamant that the further charges were not laid the next day, they were laid moments after she left the Courthouse.
The Crown argued it was not manifestly excessive and the sentence was one of the lowest penalties available.
But Justice Williams said he found it "very troubling indeed" that the day after Lawson was sentenced, further Work and Income charges were laid.
The Judge may have been unaware that Police were gathering at the Court during the sentencing hearing itself, and actually arrested Ms Lawson approximately five minutes after she left the Courthouse.
It seems that they did this because the suspended sentence depended on her staying out of trouble in the future and WINZ knew that if they could get a conviction on the new matters it would trigger a recall of the suspended sentence. Dirty tricks and underhand tactics in other words.
"I fear that the ministry may be losing its own sense of proportion here.
"Miss Lawson clearly has coping issues in her life. They are reflected in the content and number of her communications with those with whom she is in conflict. And she has proved herself unable to mediate her way through these various disputes.
"In short, she feels got at."
Justice Williams said, in the circumstances, a conviction and discharge was a just outcome and he found the district court judge's sentence was manifestly excessive.
"This arises through no fault of the learned judge. He was not aware of the potential (and I accept it is only potential) impact of that sentence, given the steps the ministry subsequently took."
That aspect of the appeal was allowed. The sentence was set aside and Lawson was convicted and discharged.
Sonja Lawson is a law abiding woman who has contributed a great deal to her community. More information about her can be found at this link, and also this link.
It is disgraceful that people like David Farrar find these matters to be fodder for their amusement and ridicule. The misleading article was published on the day of Sonja's father's funeral, details of which were published in the same paper, the Taranaki News, and the publication of the report caused extreme distress at a time when she was very vulnerable. It's worth scrolling down at the Farrar site and reading Sonja's response to his 'work'. She's right. We've got some of the highest rates of suicide in the world and Farrar's bullying is uncalled for, unwarranted, and absolutely disgraceful.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
On Tuesday 23 September a small yellow coffin decorated with flowers made its way through Featherston from a memorial service at St. Teresa's Catholic Church, and then to Matamata a day later for a funeral and burial.
Inside that coffin was the battered and bruised little body of a sweet bubbly six year old girl who should have had her whole life in front of her.
Her father Ron Burrows had repeatedly contacted CYFS - the government agency tasked with protecting children - but his concerns were ignored. The murderer's mother Robyn Williams is thick as thieves with local Police, and despite all the warning signs, Police protected the murderer and his mother, who owned a local pub, and ignored or minimised all complaints against them, in return for drugs, money, sexual favours and other incentives.
Coral Ellen Burrows was murdered on 9th September 2003 by Stephen Roger Williams - the darling of local Police and journalists, along with his drunken, drug addicted mother Robyn, who was a close friend of Police spin doctor Glenda Hughes, - "Hughes got involved in the case of Coral-Ellen Burrows, the six-year-old murdered by her stepfather, Steven Williams. She knew Williams' mother "from a former life" - Hughes rushed to the scene in the run down and God forsaken Wairarapa town of Featherston to support the Williams family and run damage control for them and the local Police who were equally culpable for the murder - if they'd done their job and taken proper action against the numerous complaints about the family Williams would have been in prison where he belonged instead of running riot assaulting and murdering anyone who be believed had "got cheeky" to him.
Instead of protecting Coral Ellen Burrows, local Police protected Stephen Williams and his mother, a drug dealing prostitute who had six children to different fathers and proved to be a complete and utter failure as a parent. Her daughter Anamari Margaret Stone is also a convicted murderer - she took a plea bargain and admitted to the charge of manslaughter rather than face trial for murder. She was sentenced to just three years.
Coral's disappearance was not noticed until 4pm when she failed to get off the school bus to her waiting mother. Returning to the school to collect her daughter, her mother was then told that she had not attended school that day.
A search was started a matter of hours later and a helicopter was brought in to support the ground search of waterways and farmland in rural areas. Coral’s natural father, Ron Burrows arrived soon after from Te Puke to join the search. As the night wore on the search was cancelled - to be resumed the next morning. A 30 square kilometre area of farmland, tree lines, buildings and properties were combed. As darkness came and the rain continued to fall, the search was again called off for the night.
Detective Inspector in charge of the case, Rod Drew, claimed he spoke to "almost everyone in the community" and requested “to hear from people who were travelling through the South Wairarapa”.
10 September 2003 - Coral’s School bag found
During an aerial search of Abbott’s Creek last this afternoon, the backpack belonging to Coral was found. The bag was said to contain Coral’s uneaten lunch and some schoolbooks when recovered from below the Featherston rail bridge.
The discovery of the bag is significant in regards that it reduces “the likelihood of Coral simply wandering off because of the distances involved.” It is believed that the bag may have travelled some distance. Aerial and ground searches will be directed into the areas from the double bridges at the base of the Rimutaka Hill Road downstream towards the edge of Featherston township.
The police are now appealing for any sightings of people seen in the area or vehicles parked on Tuesday along the main highway, near Double bridges, scenic lookouts or adjoining roads.
12 September 2003 – Coral’s stepfather remanded in custody
It has been revealed that the police had paid a visit to the family home the day that Coral went missing. The Dominion Post claimed it was a drug-related raid. Cars related to the property have also been impounded. Unemployed Stephen Roger Williams, 29, of Featherston appeared in Masterton District Court charged with 2 charges - one of assault and one of the using white Lada motor vehicle as a weapon. The incidents occurred on 2 September and the assault was related to Coral’s mother’s brother.
13th September 2003 – Mannequin displays Coral’s clothes
Hoping to prompt more public help, the police released a more detailed visual and written description of the clothes Coral was last seen wearing, including a mannequin dressed in the same clothes she was wearing. Police have also lowered Lake Wairarapa’s water level from 4m to 2m to continue search using a jet boat.
14th September 2003 – Forensic search of Coral’s home, Rest day for searchers
Although searchers have been given a rest day, the family and friends of Coral are still out there searching and calling her name.
Meanwhile police and forensic experts are searching Coral’s home in what they describe as standard procedure. Coral’s mother and 2 brothers moved out of the home they shared with Stephen Williams and the home is being guarded. It has not been revealed if the family are still in Featherston.
15th September 2003 – Williams appears in Court as search continues
Steven Roger William appeared in Masterton District Court and agreed to be remanded in custody. Meantime forensic search continues on the stepfather’s car and home.
16th September 2003 – Coral’s disappearance most likely 'an abduction'
police revealed today. "I am led to the inevitable conclusion that Coral has been abducted and taken from the immediate area by another person." Says Inspector Drew as he appealed for more sightings of a beige/fawn coloured Lada sedan in the Featherston, Greytown, Martinborough or South Wairarapa on Tuesday last week between the hours of 12.30pm and 3.30pm. However searches have by no means been called off. Divers, helicopter and search teams continue to various areas, including a tented off area at Coral’s house.
17 September 2003 - Coral's stepfather jailed for eight months
Steven Williams pleaded guilty in the Masterton District Court to assault, threatening to kill a 16-year-old in Featherston and causing grievous bodily harm in July. In addition he crashed a car into a power pole while extremely intoxicated and will serve a further two months for that. His lawyer Jock Blaythwayt says Williams accepts his sentence and is willing to stand up when he has done something wrong - however while handcuffed and being led to a prison van Williams yelled to media that his sentence was a joke.
18 September 2003 - Police request burnoff info
Police investigating Coral Burrows disappearance seek information about rubbish fires or burnoffs in the south Wairarapa area in the week Coral went missing. Inquiry head Detective Inspector Rod Drew says there is nothing unusual in the request, describing it as simply 'exploring all possible information sources'.
19th September 2003 – Coral’s body recovered and stepfather charged
As police cordoned off a 30 to 40 metres square area in bush near Lake Onoke (Ferry), Coral’s family learnt of the death of the six year old and the arrest of Steven Roger Williams (Coral’s step-father).
The police waited until daylight to begin their search of the area. Coral’s body was discovered at 9.15am and recovered early in the afternoon. A preliminary post mortem was started and is expected to be complete later in the weekend. Meantime the police and forensic expects will remain at the discovery site to conduct a “thorough and meticulous examination of the scene”.
29 year old Steven Roger Williams appeared in Masterton District Court charged with the murder of his stepdaughter. Coral’s family stood quietly during the hearing but others outside hurled abuse and food as Williams left. He will be held on remand until October 17.
UPDATE: Six years later nothing has changed - Police continue to actively protect child abusers and crucify the victims: