City Voice: Referendum confuses voters
By Emma Vere-Jones
“IF we agree with one half of the referendum statement and disagree with the other, how should we vote?” This was a question from the floor at the second City Voice/Scoop election forum on the violent crime referendum on 30 Sept. The referendum asks if there should be a reform of our justice system, placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious, violent offences.
It was initiated by Christchurch resident Norm Withers after his 79-year-old mother was violently attacked last year. Speaking for Withers, Lawrie Bryant said that “under the current system the victim can never expect justice, only a legal conclusion, which is not real justice”.
But criminologist Reece Walters said minimum sentencing would cause overcrowding in jails, and axing parole would take away the incentive for prisoners to behave. Women’s Refuge spokesperson Merepeka Raukawa-Tait also opposed minimum sentencing and hard labour. “It’s a short term, knee jerk reaction that does not break the cycle of violence. With every one person that we put away, there will be five people who will fill their slot.”
Labour list candidate Winnie Laban said Labour would boost support for the police and increase community involvement in crime prevention. Sue Kedgley (Greens) said: “There’s no point in just locking people up. We’ ve got to figure out what the problem is and then deal with that problem.” National Party list candidate Dale Stephens also called for better equipped police. Owen Dance (Act) wanted stricter law enforcement on petty crime as well as serious offences, and tougher parole conditions.
The Christian Heritage Party suggested bringing back capital punishment, and the Legalise Cannabis Party said legalising cannabis would allow police more time for preventing violent crimes.
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