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Crackdown on murder while Nats spout slogans

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

29 January 2002

Government cracks down on murder while Nats spout slogans

National’s ‘life means life’ announcement is an election year attempt to build a policy around a slogan. It will have little credibility with an electorate which remembers National’s promises to be tough on law and order in 1990 then did nothing for 9 years, Justice Minister Phil Goff said today.

“This is in stark contrast to the concrete crack-down on the worst murderers which will be achieved under the Government’s Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill.

“There is nothing in National’s policy about a better deal for victims, toughening up the parole provisions for other crimes or abolishing the automatic release for many criminals after serving just two thirds of their sentence. You have to go to the Government’s Sentencing and Parole bill for that.

“The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill will increase the minimum non-parole period for aggravated murders from 10 to 17 years. This will be just a start for judges who will have the discretion to impose much longer sentences.

“For the first time there are clear guidelines in legislation that require judges to consider imposing close to the maximum penalty in the law for the worst offences.

“Under this guideline, judges will be expected to impose in the worst murder cases minimum periods before parole which would not see offenders released until old age.

“The Parole Board will have the safety of the community as it paramount consideration for the first time. So, even after the non-parole period is reached, the Parole Board will be able to keep dangerous criminals off the streets. There is also provision for those convicted of murder to have to wait up to three years between parole applications.

“National’s release confuses murder with homicide (murder and manslaughter) in figures quoted.

“The murder rate in New Zealand per 100,000 people in 2000 was 1.46 compared with 1.6 in New South Wales.

“This Government has set aside $90 million over the next 4 years to implement these changes that will see the most serious criminals behind bars for longer.

“Policies that will keep people in prisons even after they no longer pose a threat to society would cost more.

“We have to sensibly weigh the cost of keeping a geriatric prisoner who poses little threat in prison for the rest of his life against whether the money we incur in doing so could be better spent in other ways to protect the community. Spending on better policing and more effective ways to keep people from turning to crime in the first place would provide a better return for society.

“Mr English can make his vague promises but as Government we have to deal with reality not slogans. 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 where previous National-led administrations for 9 years failed to do so,” Mr Goff said.


All Phil Goff’s media releases and speeches are posted at www.executive.govt.nz

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