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Home Invasion Law Out, Hate Crimes In?

Tuesday 12 Feb 2002

The Bill that abolishes the two year sentence surcharge for home invasion under the law passed in 1998, could bring in a whole new category of "hate crimes", ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"This new category in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill was urged on the Justice & Electoral Select Committee by one late submitter. It was welcomed by Committee Chairman Tim Barnett. There was no policy analysis.

"There were no figures to show how serious it is compared to say sexual attacks on the elderly. No data to say whether the Courts are already punishing hate crimes more severely. There was no consultation paper or public discussion. No opportunity for the Police, lawyers, Judges or anyone else in the community to check the drafting.

"Supporters say hate crime provisions are `designed to alert Courts and Police that certain groups are vulnerable'.

"In effect a `hate crime' premium is saying that a death in a fight between rival gangs of Asians and skinheads, or Tongans and Samoans, is worse than the calculated murder of Michael Choy the pizza delivery man and apparently murdered for random pleasure.

"This is saying that the suffering of Kylie Jones' friends and family is somehow worthy of less redress than the rage of an Islamic group, or perhaps even Black Power or the Mongrel Mob if one of their number is targeted by a deranged racist.

"All innocent life is worthy of respect. Deterrent sentences should protect all. The Bill should, but does not empower the Courts to deal with racism or homophobia in the same way as all other viciousness - by increasing deterrent sentences when such crime is becoming more threatening. The Bill does not reflect ACT's urging to preserve the Court's traditional powers to reflect the increasing prevalence of a crime.

"Any creation of a hate crime premium would be particularly insulting to other victims in a Bill which actually reduces potential time in prison for serious violent crime generally.

"Perhaps the saddest aspect of this hate crime change is the possibility that it will harm those it seeks to advance. There is a very active debate around the world whether hate crimes legislation can actually spur greater hate. Officials have in the past opposed increasing sentences for rape, in case offenders decide they might as well murder, to reduce the risk of being caught. Severe extra penalties for hate crimes may spur some of the deranged folk to plan more viciousness, even murder, where presently they stop at beatings.

"One submission urged the Government to go even further, and make it unlawful for a Judge to take into account the homophobic advances defence. This would stop a defendant even raising any revulsion they might have at harassment or uninvited fondling by a homosexual. It should be rejected now.

"We all have a shared and vital interest in deterring violent crime. Homosexuals and people in racial minorities are entitled to exactly the same concern from the law as every other New Zealander. No more, and no less.

"A woman charged with assault must be allowed to argue that she was sick of unwelcome advances or driven to distraction. A Maori who gets in a fight, enraged by racist insults, must remain allowed to seek a lower sentence by pointing out the offence he has suffered.

"The only reason for promoting a ban on taking an unwelcome homosexual advances into account is to give homosexuality some kind of privileged or preferred status. It would exclude from our Courts evidence that in relation to any other offence or offender or victim would rightly be material.

"Hate crime legislation would be a further phase in this Government's attempt to exploit `identity politics'. For example, local authorities are now to be required to create race privileges for Maori.

"Labour offers privileges to selected groups, not caring what it does to long-standing principles, such as equality before the law. Hate crime law forces the Courts to draw distinctions based on race or sexual orientation. And the foreshadowed stage of banning the "homophobic advances defence" goes against open justice. Courts must hear the whole truth and nothing but the truth," Stephen Franks said.


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