You may remember my post from March this year, about the man with Aspergers who was caught looting in Christchurch after the major earthquake. He was made the “face of looting” at the time. His name is Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, though he is also referred to in some reports as “Arie Smith”. The police were taking a hard-line with all looters at the time; too hard perhaps considering it is alleged that the vigilante justice he received at the time of arrest was at the hands of the police:
“Lawyer Simon Buckingham earlier said on the night of his arrest, Smith-Voorkamp was beaten by two officers and taunted by New Zealand Army personnel. At his first appearance in court, Smith-Voorkamp had a black eye.” (Link to NZ Herald story).
There are also conflicting claims about whether the owners of the property that was burgled want to see the matter taken further. With the owner allegedly saying he doesn’t want the case to go ahead, and the police saying the owners are happy with how the police have handled the case so far.
Once it came to light that Smith-Voorkamp had Aspergers, and the direct impact this had on his crime (stealing light-fittings; he apparently has a compulsion to do so), the courts took a kindly approach towards him and recommended the police allow for diversion. The courts made this recommendation more than once, but the police have declined. The police state the following:
“We have reviewed our decision against the diversion policy and we are confident we have been entirely consistent with it. One of the fundamental requirements of the diversion process is that the offender needs to be able to make an informed admission of guilt.” (Link to 3 News story)
Smith-Voorkamp has entered pleas of not-guilty. The decision to make those pleas, are based on the report of a forensic psychiatrist (see the extended discussion with the defence lawyer at Stuff.co.nz).
The police have decided instead to proceed with the case; taking a hard-line approach consistent with other looting cases from the same time period.
Smith-Voorkamp has one of Christchurch’s top lawyers defending him, and the charity Autism NZ is aware of and keeping an eye on the case, so he and his concerns are well represented. There are of course high financial and mental health costs involved with the case proceeding.
I will keep an eye on the case as it develops. The next update should be on (or before) the 28th of July.
Recent links, all from July 7th 2011. Note that all these written reports vary from each other, they do not all share the same information or focus, so if you’re interested in a full picture it’s worth having a look beyond one report:
TV3 News video, also 7th July 2011.