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Speech notes for Degrees of Murder Bill - Campbell

Media release from the Alliance party

Speech notes for Degrees of Murder Bill Consideration of report stage Kevin Campbell, Alliance MP, 17 October 2001

The Alliance does not support this bill because it does not address the issues for which it was proposed. Brian Neeson developed the Degrees of Murder bill after talking with the families and friends of victims of murder. They themselves are also victims of those tragedies.

These people, and many others too, felt that murderers, especially the most heinous and extreme murderers, were not being kept in prison long enough. The Alliance takes the concerns of these people very seriously. We believe everyone in New Zealand should be able to feel safe from all forms of violent crime, especially murder. Every one of us is horrified if a murderer gets out of prison only to murder again. This is a rare event, but such ghastly events stick in our minds for a long time and inevitably make us feel less safe in our communities.

The Alliance is running a Safer Communities tour because we want to talk to people about this issue and as part of this government we are doing many positive things to increase people's safety. The Police are working hard to find effective ways to reduce violent crime. They are aware of the groups in their communities, which are at risk, and they are working with them on prevention along with the other local social service organisations.

Prevention programs are the key. Locking people up keeps us safe from yesterdays criminals but doesn't prevent new offenders committing crime today. Not only are we focusing on those groups most at risk of becoming victims or offenders of violent crime but we are improving mental health, employment, housing and education around the country. These are the long term solutions to crime, especially violent crime.

The government's Sentencing and Parole bill is the first step in addressing public concern about people being released from prison too early. Not many people realise that some criminals are convicted to spend the rest of their lives in prison. The Sentencing and Parole bill aims to set up a Sentencing Act and a Parole Act. The bill broadens the range of offences that can be given preventative detention. That means that we will be able to lock more violent and heinous criminals up for longer, even the rest of their lives if necessary.

The Victims Rights bill is also essential to bring some balance back to our justice system. Victims of offences will be given further rights in respect of the sentencing of offenders and in respect of parole or home detention hearings.

The Justice select committee attempted to make improvements to the Degrees of Murder bill to see if it could become viable, but it was never really going to work because there are unlimited Degrees of Murder and trying to force them into three kinds is fraught with difficulties.

The Bill would make significant changes in criminal law in New Zealand, which the Alliance believes are unwise and unnecessary.

Issues involved in sentencing are very complex. Highly skilled judges with years of experience in our Courts are capable of making such decisions but the average jury is not. This is not to speak ill of juries, it is simply too great a task for a group of the public without the experience of a Judge. The jury is currently already able to make recommendations on sentencing without having to take the responsibility of choosing things like, the degree of murder being applied.

In demanding someone chose the degree of murder in question before the case is heard, this bill could have given that decision to either the jury or the prosecution. Giving it to the jury would not be fair, and it could even be difficult or unwise for the prosecution to do it. Information revealed during a trial could of course show that the degree of murder chosen for prosecution was wrong.

Most importantly though, the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill and the Victim's Right's Bill cover the concerns raised in this Bill more effectively and more appropriately. The real issues this bill raises are: How do we prevent violent crime? How do we assist the victims of crime? How do we keep our communities safe from crime?

I can assure you that this government is working very hard on all these issues and making practical steps in reducing crime every single day.

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