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The Law Should Have Supported Judge's First Try

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said law should have let the Judge in the trial of four Wellington grave-robbers to tailor the sentence to fit the nature of the crime.

The High Court today suspended prison sentences imposed on the four, saying that under section 8a of the Criminal Justice Act, a community-based sentence cannot be imposed on top of a prison sentence.

"This is a sad day. There are too many appeals against sentences. Criminals gamble first on not getting caught. Successful appeals then feed their belief that they can get the better of the system even if they are caught.

"The new Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill makes it even harder for Judges to stay within the rules and it gives even more opportunities for legally aided appeals.

"It is pathetic. Defendants and their admirers in cases like this go away sniggering at the ineffective supervision and counselling they get. There is no evidence that counselling does anything.

"This case, and the law that has tangled the Judge up, demonstrate why New Zealand's young criminals are giving New Zealanders a far higher risk of being victims of a violent crime than in the United States.

"Tinkering with `headline' sentences for what the Government says will be a very few murderers will do nothing when entry-level criminals gain encouragement from such feeble responses," Stephen Franks said.


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