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Seven Day Breather on Sentencing and Parole Bill

ACT Calls for Seven Day Breather on Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill

Thursday 31 Jan 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order

Yesterday ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks wrote to MPs responsible for law and order in all parties, urging a delay of one week in the reporting back of Labour's flagship Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill. ACT will brief journalists on the Bill at a press conference today.

"So far discussion has not gone further than the level desired by the Government, stopping at the headline claims of longer sentences for the few worst offenders," Mr Franks said.

"The Bill has a spurious show of toughness because of the 92% vote for tougher sentencing and better treatment for victims. But the Select Committee will vote on a deeply deceptive Bill. The Bill actually entrenches failed policies of the last 30 years.

"Detailed work by ACT in preparing a tough and intelligent criminal justice policy has thrown up the serious problems in this Bill. The Bill does not believe in punishment. It does not believe in deterrence or denunciation. It does not believe society, or even victims, have any right to see a sentence price paid for crime.

"The Bill reduces certainty that crime will incur penalties. The Bill contains nothing ensuring that Judges increase any sentence. Mr Goff's claim there is a 17 year minimum for aggravated murder would be a crime if politicians were held to the truthfulness of securities law.

"Election year debate on law and order must offer more than an auction process of silly slogans. New Zealanders need to know the alternatives. Judges already bear blame for New Zealand being among the most crime-ridden countries in the English-speaking world. But this Bill even more closely directs them to coddle criminals.

"Corrections and parole functionaries are given the power to ignore the reasons for Court sentences once convicts have served one third, and to release criminals as whenever they think the convicts will not represent "an undue risk" to community safety. There is nothing in the Bill: * To explain how or why these officials' predictions of risk will be any better than the system has shown to date, or reflect any more concern for the community. * To ensure respect for the victims' rights to see payment of the price of crime. * To require parole authorities to ensure that any more of sentences will served than at present. Most will be reduced.

ACT has asked all parties not to rush this deceptive Bill through. Even if they won't accept ACT's concern for truth in sentencing, they must avoid deepening public disgust with Parliament," Mr Franks said. (Copy of letter to MPs attached).

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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