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Sentencing Review Is Gravely Mistaken

The Sentencing Review Policy is gravely mistaken, ACT MP Stephen Franks said today.

"As a result New Zealanders will be robbed, raped and killed unnecessarily, because it is political risk management, not genuine reform. It does not abandon our failed 30-year, offender-centred experiment.

"This is not because it is all a con job. I am sure Mr Goff sincerely wants the long overdue increase in ‘headline sentencing’ – punishment for the most vile offenders.

"But criminals will recognise that the review moves in the opposite direction. It shows the anointed, the officials and politicians in charge of the experiment, have learned nothing from successful overseas reforms.

"The 'broken windows' package that sliced New York’s murder, rape and mugging rates did not concentrate on those crimes. Commissioner Bratton’s breakthrough was in realising that foul crimes breed when you tolerate relatively minor crimes. Contempt for the law encourages criminals of all stripes. So he made sure that effective punishment was inevitable for offences as simple as graffiti vandalism.

"But our sentencing review package tells young bullies, burglars, thieves, and white collar criminals that the law doesn’t mean what it says.

"It could give us the worst of all possible outcomes. The crime equivalent of “stagflation” – long theoretical sentences, a few headline perpetual prisoners and growing recruitment to serious criminality through ineffectual penalties for apprenticeship crime.

"Young thugs and thieves are led toward more sinister crime by an expectation of sliding through prison and an overwhelmed probation service. The meagre budget for extra services and facilities tell us that the law can’t be made to mean what it says. To keep down the prison population and for no other reason they focus on potentially dangerous imitation punishments like home detention.

"Ministers Goff and Robson will get temporary praise for the headline sentence changes. Preventive detention and the appearance of an end to automatic remission will be welcomed. But New Zealanders will eventually realise we are now in the bottom form for crime. We are victims of burglaries, car thefts and other incubator crimes at rates far worse than the United States. We will lose our ignorant superiority when it sinks home that along with Australia and Britain, our victimisation rates are now far worse than the United States.

"The Review policy should have made its focus exactly the opposite of what’s been announced. Of course headline sentences needed toughening, but the effective toughening was most needed at the incubator crime level. This policy allows government to face upstream while paddling backwards downstream," Stephen Franks said.

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