A crowd gathered in Mount Maunganui protesting the home detention sentence given to teenage rapist Jayden Meyer. Video / Ethan Griffiths
A teenager sentenced to home detention after raping four teenage girls and sexually violating another has again appeared in court where his lawyer has described him as “perhaps the most vilified man in New Zealand.”
Jayden Desmond Meyer today appeared in the Tauranga District Court via audio visual link for a hearing to decide if his access to internet-capable devices should be restricted without the prior permission of a probation officer.
His lawyer Rachael Adams opposed the application saying Meyer needed the internet for his schooling and to be able to watch movies and play video games to help fill his day.
The 18-year-old is currently two months into a nine-month home detention sentence, passed down to him by Tauranga District Court judge Christopher Harding in July. He is serving the sentence at an address north of Auckland.
As part of his home detention sentence, Meyer has existing conditions not to contact victims and to hand over his internet-capable devices for inspection upon the request of a probation officer at any time.
Adams submitted there was no evidence or change in circumstances that would require an order restricting use of the internet.
“In my submission, this application is a kneejerk response to what Judge Ingram recently described as a completely unnecessary public furore as a result of sensational reporting.”
Adams said Meyer has complied with obligations to provide his devices when asked by a probation officer. That included a recent unannounced late-night visit on a Sunday, “designed, I suggest, to take him by surprise.”
“There has been nothing of concern at all, in any respect. He has been completely compliant with his conditions.”
Adams further submitted that the order, requested by Community Corrections, would only work to hamper Meyer’s rehabilitation by “effectively isolating him from the world.”
“For a young person, social media and electronic communication is how they connect with each other. Positive peer relationships are of considerable importance in Mr Meyer being reintegrated.”
“Important in terms of his isolation is his ability to watch movies, watch documentaries, follow TV series, play video games and fill his day with some distraction and a little escapism.”
Adams also referred to Meyer’s ongoing correspondence school study, which he conducts online.
When challenged, the court’s probation representative could not point to any example where Meyer had breached his existing conditions. However, the written application detailed fears of social media platform Snapchat, where sent messages automatically delete and are unable to be monitored.
In making his decision, Judge Harding found that there was little basis for the application.
“The application makes no reference to any change in circumstance since the sentence was imposed. It does not address the material detail of how the order sought will advance the rehabilitation and reintegration of the defendant.”
“The grounds set out in the statute are, in short, simply not made out. There is no factual basis to which the sentence is not being complied with.”
The application was declined.
Public backlash over Meyer’s sentence has been immense since it was revealed by Open Justice a fortnight ago.
Hundreds of students marched along Mt Maunganui’s main street, calling for tougher sentences and an end to rape culture. Further protests took place in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and New Plymouth.
A petition calling for a harsher sentence for Meyer has so far received more than 38,000 signatures, while a social media post criticising the sentence has received over 100,000 likes and support from some high-profile New Zealanders.
In a first-person piece published by Open Justice, one of Meyer’s victims spoke of her anger at the sentence. “Justice doesn’t feel as though it has been served in this case,” she said.
According to district court documents obtained by Open Justice, all five victims were aged 15 at the time of the attacks. Meyer was 16.
In one instance the sex was initially consensual but Meyer raped the girl when she refused to be with him for a second time that night. On another occasion, he filmed the rape of another unconsenting girl. A third rape happened while his victim was asleep in bed.
In the most graphic of the attacks, Meyer raped an intoxicated teen in a bush after they had been at a party. The Judge’s sentencing decision details how that victim, who was a virgin, “protested to no avail”.
Meyer, who has no criminal history, pleaded not guilty to all charges but was later found guilty.
A psychologist, who saw Meyer 30 times during the prosecution, found he had a medium risk of reoffending, and continues to minimise the effect of his crimes.
Both Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett and Adams submitted that a sentence of home detention would be most appropriate – despite the Crown accepting imprisonment would be the ordinary sentence for this sort of offending; “and indeed one of many years”.
Judge Harding agreed, saying a sentence of imprisonment being typical of this level of offending is “undoubtedly correct”.
The written sentencing decision does not detail how Judge Harding reached the conclusion home detention would be the most appropriate sentence.
“I accept the probation report and the submissions of counsel that home detention on all charges is the appropriate outcome,” Harding’s decision says.
Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett later released a statement explaining her support for a home detention sentence.
Pollett said a “rehabilitative approach is to protect the community in the long term from re-offending.” The sentence included numerous conditions to ensure compliance and engagement with the rehabilitation programme, she said.