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Government toughens law while Nats play politics


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

12 December 2001

Government toughens law while Nats play politics

Justice Minister Phil Goff says National leader Bill English’s vague promise of tougher sentencing laws for murder are a cynical effort to exploit the distress the whole country is feeling about the appalling run of murders over the past 8 days.

“Mr English is indulging in sheer politicking. The best he can do is to say National will ‘consider’ a tougher sentence for murder.

“The Sentencing and Parole Bill currently before Parliament and due to be passed next March is tougher than anything the National Party did in 9 years of government.

“The new legislation will provide for a minimum non-parole period of 17 years, up from 10, for the worst types of murders. Seventeen years will only be a starting point for judges, who can impose a much longer non-parole period.

“The Parole Board will have for the first time, the risk to the community as its paramount consideration.

“The focus for any murder sentencing legislation should be based on the risk to society, and not having geriatrics in wheelchairs still in prison costing the taxpayers money long after they cease to constitute a risk to anyone.

“This approach is having negative consequences in places such as the United States. There the fastest-growing segment of the prison population is prisoners aged 55 and over.

“States are finding it harder to find cells for the younger, and typically more violent offenders. US figures show the average yearly cost of incarceration of NZ$51,000 a year. An elderly inmate costs taxpayers $164,000 per annum.

“The extreme hard-line approach in the United States has been shown not to work with the US homicide rate three times that of New Zealand’s per capita.

“Mr English can make his vague promises but has no policy to back these up. The facts are that this government has toughened up on bail, has law about to be passed for tougher parole and sentencing and has a bill before Parliament that strengthens victims rights.

“The Government has listened to the 92 percent of New Zealanders who wanted a stronger sentencing regime and is acting after nine years of inaction by the previous National-led administration,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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