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Teenage Arson Could be Cheaper in the Future

Teenage Arson Could be Cheaper in the Future

Thursday 29 Nov 2001 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order

There is no reason for the Judge to apologise for jailing the Hamilton teenagers who burnt down their school gymnasium, says ACT's Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks.

"These teenagers should be glad they live under our gormless Government.

"Historically, arson was ranked with rape and murder in punishment terms, because communities are so helpless against it.

"But their actual time in prison will be `short and sweet' when home detention is likely. It will not deter any attention-seeking copycat kid.

"In worrying that prisons don't `help young people' the Judge is just reflecting the goofy theories that have soaked through every level of our criminal justice system.

"Mr Goff and Mr Robson tell us that sentences must serve the `criminogenic needs' of the offenders. But sentencing is not `for' the offenders. It is for the rest of us. It is to tell people who might be thinking about a criminal act - `don't; it won't be worth it'.

"The Government's Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill is going to make it even harder for Judges. Instead of allowing them to respond with the common sense of the ordinary New Zealander, here is what the so-called reforms will tell the Judges to do:

* Among nine permitted purposes of sentencing - punishment is not even included. Too primitive the Government seems to think.

* Further the Judge must "sentence the offender to the least restrictive penalty that is appropriate in the circumstances".

* Fines must be used instead of imprisonment unless the sentencing principles "make a fine inappropriate", or a fine plus reparation "would otherwise be clearly inadequate in the circumstances".

* The Judge "must not impose a sentence of imprisonment unless ... satisfied that [specified purposes] cannot be achieved by a non-custodial sentence; and no other sentence would be consistent with the application of the sentencing principles".

* The judge must also have regard to "the desirability of keeping offenders in the community as far as that is practicable and consonant with the safety of the community".

* And for reasons that completely escape me, Mr Goff's Bill says, without any explanation, rhyme or reason "The court must not impose as part of a sentence of reparation an obligation on the offender to perform any form of work or service for the victim." Is this because it might hurt their self esteem?

"Is this really what 92% of New Zealanders voted for?" Stephen Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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