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VOICE Calls Endorsed By ACT

Monday 9th Oct 2000 Stephen Franks Media Release -- Justice

Families of recently murdered women (VOICE) are demanding that the government stop early release for violent criminals like Taffy Hotene who will rob, rape and murder again, said ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

VOICE is a collection of families of recently murdered women organised to bring attention to the inadequate protection ordinary New Zealanders are given from violent criminals. VOICE seeks reform on parole and sentencing laws.

"However, longer sentence powers already exist, as does the power to impose tight conditions on parole. They are rarely used, and breaches are often not even followed up, let alone punished.

"Only a change of heart and character by the political/official elite can really protect the innocent victims. They are trying to hide the scandal that our system has become, because it is everything that they were warned would happen.

“Taffy Hotene could do his brutal work because our corrections system is not allowed to do its job. The family of Kylie Jones do not even get the courtesy of attention from the Ministers responsible. No doubt the State will pay for careful hearings of any grievances Mr Hotene might have. The formation of VOICE will help ensure the Labour/Alliance ministers and their officials have to listen to the victims, even if they do not want to.

"Conservatively, since the election there will have been a murder every 2 months, a rape every month and four robberies every week, that would not have happened if they had been tough on crime as promised, and allowed the Truth in Sentencing Bill to pass, instead of blocking it".

"If the Ministers of Justice and Corrections were doctors or genetic scientists, or TranzRail, they would by now be before a full scale Commission of Inquiry, for doing so little to stop hundreds of preventable robberies, rapes and murders.

"The Official Information Act lets us know that the Corrections elite have been ignoring the practical warnings of their own frontline staff. While detailed figures are not available, or are withheld, answers to questions show that the parole system is a total scandal. * No figures show how many criminals hurt people during their early release period. * Few are recalled to serve the rest of their sentences when they commit new crimes. More than half of serious criminals (sentenced to more than 7 years) reoffend within 3 years but in 1999 only 6 such prisoners on parole were recalled.

* 2152 shorter term (less than 7 year nominal sentence) prisoners were released in 1999, virtually all after serving less than two thirds of their sentences, and most less than half. Nearly half of these will have offended during the early release but only 141 were recalled to serve more of their sentence. * The probation service often does not enforce the conditions of parole, when anyone bothers to impose special conditions. * Police arresting offenders can not find out whether they are on parole. * The Minister of Justice will not say which officials are conducting the promised "Sentencing Review", what their qualifications are, or what notice will be taken of the public who want an input * The sentencing review will not include any calculation of the cost of crime, though the Minister of Justice meets all pleas for truth in sentencing with the objection that it would cost too much. How can he know what is 'too much' when he has nothing on the other side to compare it with?"

“The promised Sentencing Review is to be carried out by officials without any publicly announced targets, reporting times or formal hearing requirements. The terms of reference do not require any study of US experience, where some states are showing spectacular drops in crime, while others with lax sentencing are not.

"The review is one of hundreds the government starts to head off serious decisions while they force through their priority agenda. In the justice area that has been the same sex and "marriage" property law change. The Bail Bill was stalled until last week, apparently to save the Minister of Corrections from the embarrassment of overflowing prisons, given his opposition to new prisons.

"Officials also share responsibility for what has happened. Asking them is like asking the Indonesian army to bring justice to the Timorese militia. It is not overly emotional to say that dogmatic politicians and officials have the blood of many on their hands. The blood of victims of early release criminals whose sentences were already paltry to begin with. The coalition has just blocked the Truth in Sentencing Bill which would have saved Kylie Jones.

"ACT has a Member's Bill to reform Parole, and seeks the ballot for it. ACT will assist VOICE in whatever way we can

"ACT will press for a public enquiry into the parole system, because it is unlikely the Sentencing Review is being allowed an open mind. We must ensure that the truth is made public," said Stephen Franks.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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