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Fixing The Lawlessness - Peters Speech

Rt Hon Winston Peters

Senior Citizens Hall

Ocean Road Paraparaumu

10.00am Wednesday 26 June 2002

Fixing The Lawlessness:

New Zealand First’s Policy

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.

When we launched the New Zealand First 2002 Election campaign on 17 June we said we would do things in the next three years: that this election was about the rights of ordinary Kiwis:

- the right to walk down the streets of this country in safety;

- the right of all New Zealanders to stand together as equals; and,

- the right to stop being swamped by a flood of immigrants.

Because:

- safety from crime and violence;

- being one people; and,

- control over who becomes a New Zealander,

these are issues that go to the heart of our nation,

and New Zealand First sees these basic rights as threatened.

Make no mistake the New Zealand we value is under threat.

That threat comes from:

- rampant lawlessness;

- a Treaty industry that foments racial division and discord; and,

- a flood of immigrants.

New Zealand First does not want to see the New Zealand we cherish lost to future generations - because we failed to act.

Those of us who are proud to call ourselves New Zealanders know how privileged we are to be from this country.

But we see the special qualities of our country - a special place - a place of civilised and courteous citizens - a place of fair minded and tolerant people - slipping away.

Well, in this campaign we can promise you New Zealand First will bring one quality lacking in all our political opponents.

Plain speaking!

Let us concentrate on just one of the three key themes of our campaign: how New Zealand First intends to restore safety and security to our communities.

That safety and security is an election issue comes as no surprise - among ordinary New Zealanders there is deep unease about this country’s descent into lawlessness.

Much of New Zealand now adopts a “pull down the shades’, “lock the doors’, “set the alarms’ and “barricade ourselves in for the night’ attitude every evening of their lives.

Ordinary Kiwis have lost the feeling of being safe and secure in their homes.

You may recall the film “A Clockwork Orange” - more and more New Zealand towns and communities are starting to resemble that nightmare, the sort of nightmare we used to associate with the more dangerous districts of major US cities, such as New York or Los Angeles.

So how has this happened?

Simply this: successive political parties have tinkered with growing lawlessness and

their efforts have been like snowflakes falling on a wet road!

Rights have been put before responsibilities to the point where we are besotted with proclaiming the rights of everyone and anyone to do whatever they wish, when they wish, so that our public streets and now our own homes are no longer safe.

How do we fix it?

By creating a hard hitting programme to ensure that the law-abiding have the upper hand over the law breaking.

As a starting point we know that we are going to need substantial changes to the way the Police, Social Agencies, Courts and Corrections carry out their complementary roles.

In particular, the social agencies have become remote Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 operations. This applies to health services, including most mental health and psychological services, emergency welfare programmes, and shelter schemes. In place of these agencies, the Police have become the catchment agency for all the “too difficult to handle” within our communities, and have had to contribute increasing amounts of their time and resources to carrying out these roles.

New Zealand First intends making the social agencies, responsible for emergency help, fully available to their clients and will remove the barriers of convenience they have built up.

Police will then be able to concentrate on “Police issues’ and will no longer be required to serve as an out of hour’s agency of care for everyone in need.

Mental health patients are particularly poorly served in this regard. Often they are out on the streets because they have nowhere else to go or have no supervision in the “halfway houses’ into which they have been placed.

In reality, for many of them, some form of institutionalised care is the best option if we have their real interests at heart, and that of the communities in which they live.

We will integrate emergency services into a single Ministry of Emergency Services. Police - Fire - Ambulance will share facilities, stations, radio communication facilities, vehicles and civilian support staff. Information will be shared amongst these services to better co-ordinate services and to ensure Police are better advised of trouble spots.

Fire fighters and ambulance staff often come across people and matters of interest to the Police. The reverse is true. The sharing of information will assist in Police being better informed and the eyes and ears of Police will be instantly multiplied.

In addition, these services and Police will be permitted to interface at a practical level with the Departments of Justice and Corrections and Mental Health agencies. Too often, issues such as privacy, secrecy and inter-departmental rivalry have impeded the free and frank exchange of information and aided criminals not the community.

The cost associated with these changes is minimal. Success is largely dependent upon attitudinal changes only.

Currently a suspected offender has not only the right to remain silent and to refuse co-operation with the Police, but also the right to apply for bail. There is invariably an expectation that bail will be granted. We intend to change this procedure significantly.

It is just too favourable to suspects or offenders to have each of these two rights -silence as well as bail - and we intend to adopt a system whereby one or the other can be chosen - but not both.

This will help the Police by:

- freeing up thousands of hours of Police time currently wasted trying to get individuals to answer questions once bailed; and,

- reducing the incidence of offenders interfering with witnesses, and intimidating them into having memory lapses.

The present situation requires the Police to go to extraordinary lengths to establish the facts surrounding a crime, facts that are known full well by the suspected offender, and is one sided and a waste of tax payers resources.

Lawyers will still be able to advise their clients, but entitlement to the double advantage of right to silence and right to gain release on bail will cease.

This will achieve a better balance between the rights of suspects and the ability of the Police to get on with their real job - catching criminals.

The concept of bail, once a suspect is charged with a crime under the present regime, has come to be considered a right rather than the privilege that it really is.

I can already hear the squeals of outrage from the academic experts, criminologists and human rights groups!

They will be incensed at our idea but they should bear in mind that in the UK, from where most of our laws originate, there is no right to silence, and the Police also have the right to detain suspects for specific periods.

Another change we propose is that an offender, once found guilty by a competent court of jurisdiction, will serve the full sentence imposed. The opportunity to earn an earlier release by way of approval by the Parole Board will be given but this concession will be gained only through good behaviour, demonstrated contrition, and a willingness to make good any restitution imposed at the time of sentencing.

The principle here is that entitlements to parole or early release must be earned - they will not be automatic rights.

The system of automatic remission of sentence will be discontinued and Judges will no longer have the ability to discount terms of imprisonment once they have commenced.

The only reductions in sentence will be at the discretion of the Parole Board. Parole will only be considered in exchange for tangible and demonstrated regret, recognition of the hurt and cost to victims, and the making good of compensation required by the Parole Board.

Compensation for victims, paid for by the offender will also be introduced. Compensation can take many forms, for example repair or replacement of property damaged or stolen, or monetary compensation to fund health assistance. In some cases, monetary compensation to the victim for anguish caused is appropriate.

To those who protest that our measures are too hard we say the point of sentimentality has been passed. Soft words and band- aids have not stemmed the crime wave.

New Zealand First will introduce a regime of fixed term sentencing for specified crimes.

We will pilot a system whereby those convicted of serious crimes will be offered remission in exchange for completing their time under a regime of hard labour. They will be required to work either within prison, or if trustworthy, in selected communities. They will receive payment, which will be put towards victim restitution.

Many white-collar criminals pose little or no threat to the community in the physical sense. In some instances, these offenders could make a worthwhile contribution to the communities they have offended against. They are usually capable of generating sufficient income and benefit back to the community to ensure they are not a financial drag upon taxpayers.

Those convicted of drink driving offences more than twice in a ten year period, will face an automatic period of imprisonment of 6 months and the loss of their driving licence for a minimum of 12 months.

Whilst imprisoned they will be required to take part in a course of education to ensure they understand the effects on the community and their victims of drink driving. Drink driving offenders will face an automatic penalty of vehicle confiscation in the event they are again convicted of a drink driving offence.

Because of the inextricable linkage between offending and alcohol consumption, the age of consent for the purchase and consumption of alcohol will be put back to 20 years - in keeping with the view of the majority of the population.

The weight of evidence is that the lowering of the age of consent to 18 years within communities has contributed to significantly increased liquor-related criminal offending.

Lowering the drinking age has been shown to have been yet another example of silly social engineering - with all the damaging impact that many predicted would occur.

The practice of “Jury tampering” and intimidating individual jury members is increasing. It must be stopped before it undermines the integrity of trials. This offence will be elevated to the status of a most serious crime and will carry an automatic sentencing upon conviction, of a minimum 10-year sentence without any form of remission.

Similarly, the practice of defence lawyers seeking insanity calls to avoid incarceration in prison of their clients - because they prefer hospital to prison - will cease. We will introduce the legal test of “guilty but insane’ to eliminate manipulation and abuse of the system.

In an effort to deter recidivist offenders from continuing with a career of criminality New Zealand First will introduce the principle of “Three Strikes and you’re out”.

This will mean that an offender convicted for 3 crimes for which they have been sentenced to any period of community service or incarceration in a prison or correction centre, will be required to serve a minimum period in prison of ten years, irrespective of the nature of their crime, and without remission.

We simply have to try harsher deterrence to deter offending. Imprisonment under this provision will require that at least half of the sentence will be under a punitive regime, with the second period of time available for rehabilitative skills.

New Zealand First will lower the age of criminal responsibility and accountability to 14 years of age. Young offenders 14 years of age and over will be dealt with by the District and High Courts as opposed to Youth Courts, should their offending have taken place after having reached the age of 14.

Family Group Conferences will remain available for those who offend under the age of 14 years but even then, any offender under the age of 14 years will be entitled to be dealt with under this provision only three times and should they offend again, will be placed before the adult criminal courts, for dealing with.

Everyone deserves one chance and for some of our young people the learning takes a little longer. It should not be forgotten however, that those who commit crimes choose to do so and it is only right that they face consequences of that choice.

Young offenders committing “entry level’ crimes will be targeted by Police because if not apprehended for offending whilst young, criminal habits become ingrained and the crimes progressively more blatant and serious.

Police will be given the resources to carry out this form of specialist policing with staff being placed into youth crime detection and information units working closely alongside the present Youth Aid and Law Related Education Programmes.

It is an old saying but totally relevant to today’s circumstances - and the wisdom it enshrines is timeless -the devil makes work for idle hands. New Zealand cannot allow its young people to grow up without jobs, self-discipline or direction - that is a recipe for disaster.

For that reason we will introduce military-like or community service training for young unemployed people in trouble with the law to foster discipline, self-esteem and to bring order into their lives.

New Zealand is well served by its Police service, but there are areas where improvements can be made. For example:

- we will deploy more of the experienced sworn Police officers out of Police National Headquarters and place them back out into operational areas with better supervision of younger constables and improved oversight of serious cases;

- we will increase the number of sworn Police. Following a detailed analysis of Police to population ratios appropriate policing levels will be achieved - and we will see an end to the exodus from our Police force. This additional staffing will not be lost into support roles but will form the nucleus of foot patrols in inner city locations, frequenting areas of significantly high criminal offending;

- we will require the Police Commissioner to grow inner city beat patrols to a level that they become effective against burgeoning crime levels; and,

- New Zealand First will ensure crime squads are reformed along with gang liaison and intelligence gathering roles to ensure Police regain the upper hand in the fight against crime.

In recent times Police have been reduced to reacting to crimes that have already happened.

The deterrent effect of well informed Police with excellent criminal intelligence as to the movements and plans of professional criminals has diminished.

We intend to restore a focus on detection and intelligence gathering to forestall crimes.

Greater use of electronic surveillance and monitoring will be encouraged and the need to receive the approval of a Judge will be removed. In place of a Judge, the Police Commissioner will be given the authority to determine such surveillance and he will be accountable to Parliament annually at the time of reporting on activities within the Police.

Mobile and laptop computers, linked to the Police database, can substantially speed up the ability for frontline Police officers to determine identities and vehicle ownership, and other relevant information. This technology will be adopted.

Our Police must not be hamstrung because of a failure to provide them with the right tools.

Police will also be given the ability to exchange and gather information from all government agencies including WINZ - Mental Health Services - and IRD to ensure they are well placed to get on top of serious criminal offending.

Police must have the ability to know how crimes are being funded and how criminals are earning their living.

Every arrested person (irrespective of the seriousness or nature of the crime) will be required to contribute a sample to a DNA bank. This will occur at the same time and in the same manner as applies at present for finger printing of all those arrested and will simply form an electronic record of detainees as opposed to a database of prints.

Finally the number of trained Police dogs and dog handlers will be increased in recognition that these are one of the best crime fighting tools in the Police armoury.

The measures outlined today are all practical, realistic steps which can be put in place in the next three years. And they are affordable.

They will all contribute real and tangible improvements to the security that we once enjoyed in New Zealand.

New Zealand First says the time for tinkering is past - we can no longer afford to delay the introduction of a serious and meaningful onslaught against the crime wave.

We must turn around the rising tide of lawlessness now - before it engulfs us.

Each of us has a responsibility to ensure the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren is a country as enjoyable and crime free as when we grew up.

It is not impossible, it is not a fantasy, it is not a dream.

Can we fix it?

Yes we can!

And STEP 1 is giving your party Vote to New Zealand First!

ENDS


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