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Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill Bad for Policing

Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill Bad for Policing

Thursday 31 Jan 2002 Ken Shirley Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order -- Truth in Sentencing

Nothing does more to erode police morale than soft sentencing and the early release of known habitual criminals," says ACT New Zealand Police Spokesman Ken Shirley.

"The principal role of our police is to identify criminals and bring them to justice. The greatest deterrent for criminals is certainty that they will be speedily caught, convicted and punished.

"Regrettably the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill omits punishment from the principles that the Courts must follow in sentencing.

"The Bill facilitates early release. We know that early released prisoners have an appalling reoffending rate. These revolving door policies can only further overwhelm already stretched police resources.

"Police statistics show that violent crime increased 8.6 percent for the year ending 30 June 2001. The chances of being mugged, bashed or raped are the highest they have ever been.

"Crimes of dishonesty are also unacceptably high. The New Zealand Insurance Council has this week reported that burglary, vandalism and vehicle-related crimes committed against New Zealanders have resulted in insurance claims of nearly $500 million since 1999. This equates to $20 million per month - which is a cost to us all through higher premium payments.

"Over the past six months alone, we have seen a staggering 50 percent increase in motor vehicle thefts, with a disproportionate share in Auckland.

"Over the past 12 months, private vehicles with a collective value of $60 million were stolen, plus a further $30 million of commercial vehicles. Insurers believe that many high-value, high-performance cars are being stolen to order by organised crime rings.

"Policing in Auckland is in crisis. Burglary victims have an average three-day wait in spite of Police Minister Hawkins pledging a maximum 24-hour response time.

"There are currently 20 CIB vacancies in Auckland, with junior staff handling very serious inquiries alone. The Wellington region is 30 police officers below its quota.

"No community can defeat crime by relying on the police and the authorities alone but the public needs to be confident that the police have the capacity to perform their tasks. If policing loses its integrity, the public becomes cynical, withdraws its support and the criminals win.

"Public discontent and unease with New Zealand Police appears to be rising. Staff shortages, frontline bitterness with work practices and a dysfunctional Police Minister compound the discontent.

"ACT wants to focus greater police effort on criminals, rather than wasting millions of dollars chasing people who are momentarily negligent or careless.

"The culture of political correctness pervading New Zealand society is increasingly frustrating police activity. Communities should be told who the criminals are and where they live. Social disdain and shame should be part and parcel of punishment and hence, deterrence. The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill is moving us in the wrong direction.

"ACT will ensure police resources are sharply focussed on fighting crime.

"As part of ACT's focussing of police resources on criminal activity, we will continue to oppose police involvement in unnecessary and expensive programmes such as the compulsory registration of all firearms. The scheme, supported by this Government, was originally estimated to cost $20 million whereas we know the Canadian scheme it is modelled on - which was meant to cost $70 million - is likely to end up costing $500 million.

"While road safety is important, George Hawkins has developed an obsession with highway patrol cars and speed cameras. One speed camera in South Dunedin collected $40,000 worth of revenue in one hour late last year.

"Reckless and dangerous driving cannot be condoned but the reduced speed tolerances is all about revenue gathering, not accident prevention.

"The focus of policing in New Zealand must be redirected to apprehending criminals and bringing them to justice."

ENDS

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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