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Sentencing Bill: Parole Board Trumps Courts

Wednesday 13 Feb 2002

The Select Committee's report on this Bill is still not available. ACT has released a summary of the key points, and has also completed an analysis containing the relevant provisions as amended by the Committee. It can be accessed at:

"In the absence of the Report and Bill the Government is getting away with misrepresentation of its effect," ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The Bill reduces certainty in sentencing. Convicted criminals can forget about what the Court orders. If they are not dangerous they can expect release after one third of their sentence. It doesn't matter what other punishment reasons there were, only dangerousness is relevant. The only sentences increased are for the worst murders.

"There is nothing in the Bill to tell us that the Parole Board will do any better than they have in the past when it comes to assessing whether or not a criminal is `rehabilitated'.

"The Parole Board will not be permitted to take any purposes of sentencing (other than danger to the community) into account when deciding whether to release a criminal. It must focus only on the particular offender irrespective of any need to deter others and send a message.

"Both the Ministers of Justice and Corrections are trying to turn this into a debate about safety (reoffending by a criminal) when in fact there are three other equally important purposes of sentencing:

· Deterrence of other offenders and;

· Doing justice for victims (ensuring an appropriate price is paid for the harm and suffering caused).

"This Bill is not what the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders voted for when they said they wanted tougher penalties for crime and greater justice for victims," Stephen Franks said.


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