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ACT Summary Of The Sentencing & Parole Reform Bill

ACT Summary Of The Sentencing And Parole Reform Bill

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks released the following summary and comment on the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill which was reported back to Parliament today.

"The Bill does several useful things:

· It ends automatic release at two thirds of every sentence.

· It prescribes a minimum 17-year sentence for the worst murderers.

· It sets out in readily accessible form some of the current sentencing principles and aggravating and mitigating factors.

· Reparation is a must, so long as it does not cause "undue hardship to the offender or [his] dependents". Whether victims or their dependents are suffering "undue hardship" is not relevant. At least reparation payments rank ahead of fines if the criminal can't afford both.

"But in the other direction the Bill does much more. It makes sentencing suit the "criminogenic needs" of the criminals, and not the crime. In particular:

· The sentencing principles do not reflect two of the stated purposes, "accountability" and "denunciation".

· Any sentence of less than two years is automatically cut in half.

· Nothing in the Bill requires that preventative detention be used more.

· The minimum term for preventative detention has been reduced to 5 years from the current 10 years.

· Prisoners must be released if the Parole Board thinks they are not an "undue risk to the safety of the community".

· The Bill lowers the non-parole period for serious violent offences from two thirds of a sentence to one third.

· The Bill abolishes the Judges' current power to set minimum non parole periods for any serious violent offence.

· Criminals will be able to appeal if any sentence other than a fine is given, and a fine could have served the same purposes.

· The minimum age for imprisonment is raised from 16 to 17 except for serious offences.

· Judges can't stipulate what kind of prison the offender should go to or make community work to fit the crime.

· Offenders may demand that the Court hears their family or whänau representative on sentencing but victims can't comment on or recommend a sentence.

· Release conditions for parole cannot extend to require the offender to stay at work or to meet obligations to family or dependents or to victims, or to abstain from drugs or alcohol.

· Even serious violent offenders such as rapists must be considered for parole every 2 years, after one third of their sentence, despite the new power to postpone consideration.

· Offenders who have breached parole by absconding must be considered for new parole within 12 months after recapture unless they have a new sentence.

· "The Bill is encrusted with new processes and rights of appeal and review. The Law Society warned that lawyers would be bound to make a feast of it. It takes away existing Court powers," Mr Franks said.


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