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Sentencing And Parole Reform Details Released

Justice Minister Phil Goff announced details of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which will be tougher on the worst offenders, provide greater flexibility in sentencing to reflect the seriousness of the crime and give victims a better deal.

"The current law relating to sentencing and parole does not adequately ensure that those found guilty of the worst crimes always receive sentences that reflect the seriousness of their offending.

"These changes are ones I first advocated in Opposition and also reflect what the people spoke strongly for in the 1999 referendum. This is the first thorough and considered overhaul of sentencing laws since the Criminal Justice Act was passed in 1985. The new law will establish a fair, firm and rational sentencing framework that delivers clarity and consistency to sentencing and parole in New Zealand," said Mr Goff.

KEY ASPECTS OF THE BILL

* Those guilty of the worst types of murders will now wait much longer before becoming eligible for parole. The minimum non-parole period for these murders will increase from 10 to 17 years. 17 years will be just a starting point. Judges will be able to impose much longer minimum periods before parole eligibility.

* More scope for judges in murder sentences. The new law will accommodate the difference between a mercy killing and a home invasion murder.

* Clear sentencing guidelines so Judges are left in no doubt that the most serious offences should receive a sentence near the maximum available.

* Final release after serving two-thirds of a prison sentence will be abolished. Offenders will be able to be kept in prison up until the sentence expiry.

* Criminals guilty of offences leading to life or preventive detention sentences may have to wait up to five years between applications for parole once they become eligible to make an application, rather than being considered each year.

* The new New Zealand Parole Board to be established will follow the fundamental principle that the protection of society should be the paramount consideration in any case.

* Modifying preventive detention, including lowering from 21 to 18 the age at which an offender may be classified as dangerous and sentenced to an indeterminate sentence.

* A strong presumption in favour of reparation for victims, and an extension of reparation so that it covers victims for physical harm, emotional harm and property loss or damage.

* A requirement that judges give reasons if they have not imposed reparation;


"The net cost of the proposed changes is estimated to be $90 million over four years. This figure will be made up of operational costs and capital expenditure.

"The Bill will be introduced to Parliament by mid this year. Following the Select Committee Process and reporting back, it is intended that the Bill be passed into law and have effect by March next year.

"The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill is a fulfilment of the promises I made before the last election and a clear and positive response to the 92 percent of people who voted in favour of the 1999 referendum.

"This is a balanced measure designed to create flexibility while ensuring those people about whom the public have most concern and who present the greatest risk to our society, can and will be kept away for a longer period of time," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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