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Lawyers Collude in Government Deceit on Sentencing

Lawyers Collude in Government Deceit on Sentencing

Wednesday 5 Jun 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

"The judge's talk of deterrence when sentencing the Chinese kidnappers to 16 and 14 years makes the judge complicit in the Government's routine deception" said ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

"He is a tough judge, and that deception is not his fault. He is obliged by the law to go through the motions."

"But for the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association to add weight to that deception is more reprehensible. The Association should not allow itself to be party to this by talking as if these fourteen and sixteen year sentences can be taken at face value.

Both the judge and the lawyers know what every experienced criminal knows: that the criminals will be out in less than five years three months, and four years seven months respectively, taking account of time awaiting trial.

"The near guarantee of release at one-third comes because the new Parole Board must release prisoners when they have served one third of their sentence if they do not represent an `undue risk to the safety of the community'. Judges' reasons for sentencing, like deterring others, or ensuring there is a price paid for crime, are irrelevant. These kidnappers are to be deported as soon as they are released - which is proper. But don't pretend that five years in one of our soft jails will scare your average criminal from China planning to prey in New Zealand.

"ACT moved amendments to at least allow the Parole Board to take into account a judge's reasons for sentencing. The Government voted them down because it wants the Parole Board to have a free hand in overturning sentences of the court.

"Our amendment would have preserved the integrity of judges going through the sentencing charade under the new parole system. Judges could comfort themselves that there was at least a possibility of the Parole Board respecting the reasons for sentencing and that it was therefore not misleading to announce a 16 year sentence without warning the credulous media and New Zealanders looking for reassurance, that in fact it would only be 5 years 4 months.

"No study has established that parole works to reduce re-offending. ACT will restore Truth in Sentencing by abolishing parole," Mr Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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