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Government 'Fights' Crime With Weasel Words

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks says he's appalled on first examination of the detail in Phil Goff's Sentencing & Parole Reform Bill which was introduced into Parliament today.

"It's very cunning. For the critical first few days of public discussion it will probably mislead people standing up for victim's rights into giving it guarded support.

"For the past 18 months the Government's been pretending it will get tough on crime. Phil Goff's still pretending that's what this bill does. But if you read it carefully, the bill does exactly the opposite. Some headline sentences will increase, but the weight of the bill is full of weasel words and platitudes for the criminals. We shouldn't have expected anything different from the Government that has given us suggestions such as conjugal visits for prisoners and children being raised with their incarcerated mothers.

"Contrary to what Mr Goff says, it's the victims of vile crimes that are left with the bones while the offenders are given a feast of opportunity, and lawyers who speak for them.

"The legislation will add to discretions in sentencing and more watered-down punishment. Those who are responsible for our failed 30 year experiment get another chance to apply their theories. Abolition of mandatory life sentences for murder must result in even shorter sentences for the people who willingly take lives.

"Under these offender-based reforms judges will have to sentence the convicted to 'the least restrictive penalty appropriate in the circumstances' and should take into account 'any particular circumstances of the offender that would make a sentence disproportionately severe'. Under our existing laws a life sentence means anything but that. Now life sentences themselves are on the way out.

"92 percent of New Zealanders voted for tougher sentences for violent offenders. They've been betrayed by this blatant piece of spin.

"More reliance is to be placed on fines. But already they are not collected. New Zealand will get the worst possible outcome: large headline sentences for the experienced criminals who are least likely to be influenced by them, while entry-level criminals will get the message, 'society is scared of you - take a gamble on getting a wally for a judge, and you'll receive counselling, a fine or 'community sentencing' and get out early. The law will not mean what it says.

"ACT will fight this legislation. In Government we will move quickly to implement policies that make the law mean what it says, that give major consideration to the victims and that ensure offenders are punished ' not just given a few warm words and invited to be life members of the Labour or Alliance parties," Stephen Franks said.


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