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National Wants Major Changes To Sentencing Bill

The Government's Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill won't deliver what this country needs to fight violent crime, without some major changes, says National's Justice spokesperson Wayne Mapp.

"New Zealanders have a right to feel cheated. The Government failed to listen to submissions on the Bill which explicitly asked for real action against violent criminals and it's arrogantly disregarded Opposition calls for amendments to the Bill.

"Even its recent back down on parole, allowing judges to impose non-parole periods on violent offenders with finite sentences of more than two years, didn't go far enough. The reinstatement of the two-thirds rule, put in because of constant pressure from National, is still only discretionary. It should be mandatory for all serious violent offenders.

"National wants some major changes to this Bill so that New Zealanders will have the criminal law they were promised. These amendments include:

* Expanding the category of serious violent offenders to include serious sexual offences, and ensuring no violent offender is eligible for parole before two-thirds of the sentence is served.
* Guaranteeing punishment is an explicit part of sentencing policy and taken into account when determining whether to imprison.
* Increasing the standard sentence for murder from a minimum of 10 to 15 years.
* Guaranteeing that life will mean life for the worst murderers.
* Strengthening parole provisions to ensure community safety is the paramount issue when considering an offender's release.

"The Government's had more than two years to deliver and it's failed. Violent crime has spiralled out of control, up 5.9 percent in the year to 31 December 2001, on top of 4.7 percent the year before. But the Government has not fixed this Bill to give New Zealanders what they want, a major crack down on violent crime.

"It now has a simple choice to show it is serious. It should vote for National's amendments," says Dr Mapp.


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