A crowd gathered in Mount Maunganui to protest the sentencing of teenage rapist Jayden Meyer to house arrest. Video / Ethan Griffiths
A teenager sentenced to house arrest after raping four teenage girls and sexually abusing another has appeared in court again, where his lawyer has called him “perhaps the most maligned man in New Zealand”.
Jayden Desmond Meyer appeared today via audiovisual link at Tauranga District Court for a hearing to determine whether his access to internet-enabled devices should be restricted without the prior approval of a probation officer.
His attorney, Rachael Adams, denied the request, saying Meyer needed the internet for his schooling and to watch movies and play video games to fill his day.
The 18-year-old is currently serving two months in a nine-month prison sentence imposed by Tauranga District Court Judge Christopher Harding in July. He is serving the sentence at an address north of Auckland.
As part of his house arrest sentence, Meyer has existing conditions not to contact victims and to hand over his internet-enabled devices for inspection at any time if requested by a probation officer.
Adams contended that there was no evidence or change in circumstances that would warrant an order restricting Internet use.
“In my view, this motion is a knee-jerk response to what Judge Ingram recently described as wholly unnecessary publicity as a result of sensationalist reporting.”
Adams said Meyer complied with the obligation to make his devices available when requested by a parole officer. This recently included an unannounced nightly visit on a Sunday “to surprise him, I suggest”.
“There was nothing to worry about at all. He fully met his terms.”
Adams added that the order, requested by Community Corrections, would only help hamper Meyer’s rehabilitation by “effectively isolating him from the world.”
“For a young person, social media and electronic communication are the connection to each other. Positive peer relationships are essential to Mr. Meyer’s reintegration.”
“Important in relation to 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 referenced Meyer’s ongoing distance learning study, which he is conducting online.
When asked, the court’s probation officer could not name an example in which Meyer had violated his existing requirements. However, the written application details the fears of the social media platform Snapchat, where messages sent are automatically deleted and cannot be monitored.
In making his decision, Judge Harding found that there was little basis for the motion.
“The motion does not allege a change in circumstances since the sentencing. It does not address the essential details of how the requested order will advance the defendant’s rehabilitation and reintegration.”
“In short, the reasons set out in the law are simply not presented. There is no factual basis for the judgment not being complied with.”
The request was rejected.
Public backlash to Meyer’s ruling has been immense since it was revealed by Open Justice two weeks ago.
Hundreds of students marched down Mt. Maunganui’s main street demanding harsher penalties and an end to the rape culture. Other protests took place in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and New Plymouth.
A petition calling for a tougher sentence for Meyer has so far garnered more than 38,000 signatures, while a social media post criticizing the verdict has garnered over 100,000 likes and support from some high-profile New Zealanders.
In an I article published by Open Justice, one of Meyer’s victims spoke of their anger at the verdict. “Justice doesn’t feel fulfilled in this case,” she said.
According to District Court documents obtained by Open Justice, all five victims were 15 years old at the time of the attacks. Meier was 16.
In one instance, the sex was initially consensual, but Meyer raped the girl the second time she refused to be with him that night. On another occasion, he filmed the rape of another unruly girl. A third rape happened while his victim was asleep in bed.
In the most graphic of the attacks, Meyer raped a drunk teenager in a bush after they were at a party. The judge’s ruling describes how this victim, who was a virgin, “protested in vain.”
Meyer, who has no criminal record, pleaded not guilty to all charges but was later found guilty.
A psychologist who saw Meyer 30 times during the indictment found he was at moderate risk of recidivism and continues to minimize the impact of his crimes.
Both Crown Prosecutor Anna Pollett and Adams argued that a house arrest sentence would be the most appropriate – although the Crown’s assumption of imprisonment would be the usual penalty for this type of offence; “And one of many years”.
Judge Harding agreed, saying that a sentence typical of the magnitude of the crime was “undoubtedly correct”.
The written verdict does not elaborate on how Judge Harding concluded that house arrest was the most appropriate sentence.
“I accept the parole report and the attorney’s submissions that house arrest is the appropriate outcome on all charges,” Harding’s decision read.
Crown Prosecutor Anna Pollett later released a statement declaring her support for a house arrest sentence.
Pollett said a “rehabilitative approach is to protect the community from re-offending over the long term”. The ruling included numerous conditions to ensure compliance and commitment to the rehabilitation program, she said.