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Goff Introduces Sentencing & Parole Bill

Justice Minister Phil Goff today introduced the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill which he says will ensure the punishment is tailored to fit the crime while victims will be given a better deal.

The final draft of the Bill encompasses the details announced earlier this year, following work done by Justice officials and taking into account the Bill of Rights.

"This legislation is considered and thorough. It also reflects the concerns of the 92 percent of New Zealanders who voted in favour of the 1999 referendum on law and order," Mr Goff said.

The following key reforms are incorporated into the bill:

- clear sentencing guidance that the most serious offences should receive a sentence near the maximum;

- the standard final release date at the expiry of two-thirds of a finite prison sentence will be abolished and offenders sentenced to more than two years imprisonment will be able to be detained in custody up to the full term of their sentence if there is an undue risk of them reoffending following an earlier release;

- the current sentence of preventive detention for high-risk offenders aged 21 years and older will be reformed. Offenders aged 18 years or older may be sentenced to this indeterminate sentence. The range of offences for which an offender may receive the sentence will be wider than with preventive detention at present and the courts will be required to impose minimum non-parole periods of 5 years or more;

- a wider range of sentences for crimes of murder. Finite sentences will be available for murders where there are circumstances that would make the sentence of life imprisonment manifestly unjust, and longer non-parole periods will be available for those guilty of the worst murders. The standard non-parole period for such murders will increase from 10 to 17 years, as a starting point;

- there will be a single New Zealand Parole Board to replace the current Parole Board and 17 District Prisons Boards. Its paramount consideration in determining all applications for parole will be the protection of society;

- criminals guilty of offences leading to life imprisonment for murder may have to wait for up to 3 years between applications for parole, and those serving other sentences of imprisonment of over 2 years may have consideration for parole delayed for up to 2 years;

- an increase in the maximum penalty for breach of parole from three months to one year in prison;

- there will be two clearly defined community-based sentences rather than the current four with overlapping characteristics. One will involve some sort of community work and the other will have an emphasis on the supervision and rehabilitation of the offender;

- more emphasis on both the use of fines where they would constitute sufficient punishment and matching the amount of the fine to the means of the offender;

- an extension of the sentence of reparation of victims to recompense victims in a greater range of circumstances where they have suffered physical harm, emotional harm or property loss or damage;

- a requirement for judges to provide reasons if they have not imposed reparation in cases where a victim has suffered loss or harm;

- provision for restorative justice processes to be taken into account when sentencing offenders.

"Reforming sentencing, parole and the rights of victims has been long overdue. This legislation has been carefully worked through. While there is no quick-fix solution for dealing with crime in our society, this Bill provides the platform for the justice system to do its job better.

"I promised to act on sentencing and parole before the last election. This Bill honours those commitments," Mr Goff said.

The Bill will be referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for the hearing of public submissions.

Ends

Check out the Executive Government website at www.executive.govt.nz


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