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Courts Blocked From Supporting Police Crack-Downs

The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, reported back by a Parliamentary Select Committee on February 12, will prevent Judges from helping Police to crack down hard on violent sports louts says ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks.

"Wellington Police Inspector Paul Berry has promised a crackdown on bottle throwing at next year's Rugby Sevens tournament. He said: `The Police are going to make a stand. We will be arresting anyone throwing bottles and asking the Courts to support us in tidying up this kind of behaviour.'

"But the Government's Bill deliberately removes the traditional power of Judges to get tough when local louts get out of hand. I tried to get the Select Committee to reinstate it. Mr Goff's officials persuaded the Government members to resist. They said Judges would just act on the basis of anecdote and prejudice. They pointed out that `send a message' sentencing would conflict with a new `consistency principle' that will block these powers to `send a message'. None of the other sentencing principles even refer to deterrence. So Judges can't sentence to send a message to other offenders.

"ACT pressed hard to get into the principles an acknowledgement of the traditional concerns for deterrence. We wanted to save the Judges' ability to react to changing prevalence of particular crime in their area. But it was blocked.

"Any person who suffers brain damage from a flying bottle at next year's Sevens might have the Government to thank. A Judge might decide to carry on as now, and support the Police. If so, the injured person can feel good, knowing his taxes will fund the legal aid for the louts' appeal. They will be able to appeal against any stiff sentences, on the grounds that Judges are no longer allowed to pursue deterrence. They will have no right to ensure that a price is paid for every crime.

"And if the louts are sentenced to prison, as long as they show they won't do it again they can demand to get out on home detention, or only a community sentence, because prison is only to protect the community from dangerous offenders.


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