Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Life will mean Life under National

Bill English National Party Leader

29 January 2002

Life will mean Life under National

A life sentence will mean life for the worst offenders under a National Government, Opposition Leader Bill English announced today.

"At the last election 92% of voters called for tougher sentences for violent criminals. Helen Clark has ignored that message.

"The new law will be based upon the New South Wales model, which defines certain murders as so extreme that they justify special punishment. Judges will be given guidelines, and the new standard would catch about two or three cases a year in New Zealand.

"It is not difficult to pick out the criminals who would fit this criteria. Murderers like Gresham Marsh, who killed two elderly people in their beds in 1994; Paul Dally, who tortured and murdered Karla Cardno; and the killer of the two young girls in Masterton recently.

"New Zealanders feel less safe after the recent spate of murders, and our communities never will be truly safe if the worst murderers are allowed out of prison after serving only a fraction of their sentence. If these people are locked away they can never hurt anyone again.

"Labour's Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill extends the period of non-parole by only seven years. This is not good enough. The public is looking to law makers for decisive action and National will provide that leadership," Mr English said.



Some Questions and Answers on the Proposed Law

Q Why introduce life without parole for the worst murderers?

A The murder rate has increased from 40 in 1981 to 56 in 2000. This has resulted in increased public demand that forthright action be taken to express our revulsion at this trend, particularly in respect of the worst murders.

Q Who will the penalty of life without parole apply to?

A The penalty will typically apply to murderers where there are multiple victims, where the crime is a second offence or the murderer has a history of violent offending, or where the murder has been committed in particularly cruel and depraved circumstances.

Q What is the definition of the worst murders?

A The Judge would have to look at the following factors:

(a) multiplicity of killing (b) unusual level of premeditation (c) whether the murderer had previous convictions for homicide (d) whether the murderer had a history of sexual and/or violent offending (e) whether the murder had particularly serious levels of cruelty or torture (f) whether the murder involved the killing of a police officer in the course of duty (g) whether the murder involved unlawful entry into a home.

If one or more of these factors are present, the murderer would expect to receive life without parole.

Q How many murderers would be expected to receive the sentence of life without parole?

A On the basis of the New South Wales law, and on the New Zealand murder rates, approximately two to five murderers would receive this sentence each year.

Q Surely this means that some people would still be in jail at age 80, when they would not be a danger?

A There would be provision for discretionary release towards the end of a prisoner's life, as is the case with the New South Wales law. In New South Wales this is a Ministerial decision, not a Parole Board decision.

Q Doesn't the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill increase the murder penalty for the worst murderers to a minimum of 17 years?

A Yes, but it will not prevent the worst murderers being released back into society, to commit further crime, and is an affront to the victims' families. For instance, a murderer who kills at age 25 can be released at age 42, still a fit, healthy and potentially dangerous individual.

Q Isn't this proposal too harsh?

A It is based on the New South Wales legislation introduced in 1995. Since that time 17 murderers have received the sentence. They are typically multiple murderers, premeditated murders, and extremely violent murders.

Q How does New Zealand's murder rate compare to that in other countries?

A The rate per 100,000 population (1997) is:

New Zealand 2.37
Australia 1.93
United Kingdom 1.92
Canada 1.91
United States 7.34

On this basis, two to five murderers would be sentenced each year to life without parole.

Q Why not give the jury a role in determining who these murderers are?

A That would introduce a major change to the law, and would require the jury to do two things - determine guilt or innocence, and determine the severity of the crime. This step would not be in accordance with Commonwealth legal tradition.

Q Should the law of murder be thoroughly revised?

A The Law Society has recommended a thorough review of the law of homicide including self defence, provocation, responsibility and sentencing. The Law Commission has suggested changes to the law of self defence and diminished responsibility. The law of homicide should have an overall review, but there is a need for these changes now in advance of a wider review.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Werewolf: What Does Winston Peters Want His Legacy To Be?

A lot of people in New Zealand seem to resent Winston Peters and the power that he appears to have. “Appears” being the operative word. In reality, Peters will have power only up to the point that he uses it.

By next week, he’ll have become just another junior player in an MMP governing arrangement, battling to hold onto the gains he was promised. More>>


Rising Toll: Road Safety Needs To Be A Higher Priority

Official advice released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that the previous National Government dismissed an option to make road safety its most important transport priority after being told the road toll was rising. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election