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ACT reheats tired “truth in sentencing’ policy

Hon Phil Goff

Minister of Justice

Media Statement

31 January 2002

ACT reheats tired 'truth in sentencing’ policy

The “truth in sentencing’ policy dredged up again by ACT would cost hundreds of millions of dollars while being ineffective in reducing crime in the long-term, said Justice Minister Phil Goff today.

“The ACT sentencing regime would lead to a 55 percent increase in the prison population and cost more than $800 million over three years. These figures were Departmental advice during the consideration of ACT’s failed Truth in Sentencing bill.

“This from a party whose main platform is to cut taxes. The question ACT won’t answer is where the money is coming from. Inevitably expenditure on this scale would have to be at the expense of health, education and superannuation.

“The only possible justification for spending this level of money would be if it could be demonstrated that it sharply reduced crime. However evidence from the United States and New South Wales demonstrates it doesn’t.

“If such sums of money were available, expenditure on early intervention, crime prevention and better policing would be more effective in achieving long-term reductions in crime.

“The Government has already taken measures to produce a tougher sentencing regime for the hardcore of dangerous offenders.

“The Government has committed an additional $90 million over four years to implementing the Sentencing and Parole Bill. The major features of the new legislation will be:

- Increasing the minimum non-parole period for aggravated murders from 10 to 17 years. Seventeen years will be just a starting point for judges.

- For the first time providing guidelines in legislation that will require judges to consider imposing close to the maximum penalty in the law for the worst offences.

- A new, professional parole board will for the first time, have the safety of the community as its paramount consideration.

- Abolishing the system currently in place where serious violent offenders are automatically released after serving two thirds of their sentence, regardless of the risk of reoffending.

“Extreme sentencing systems are failing overseas and creating major problems. States in the United States are being forced to reconsider hard-line penalty regimes because of exploding prison populations and budge blowouts.

“Such policies don’t work as a deterrent. In the US where truth in sentencing is most prevalent, the murder rate per 100,000 people is three times that of New Zealands.

“The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill is a sensible, effective, considered piece of legislation. ACT’s policy is simply election year rhetoric never designed to be implemented,” Mr Goff said

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