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Labour Justice Policy launched

5 July 2002

Labour today outlined its key priorities and programme for the continuing reform of the justice system.

Announcing the policy, Justice Minister Phil Goff said that Labour’s key priority was to improve the safety of New Zealanders by further reducing crime rates, and enhancing the position of victims.

“Police statistics for 2001 revealed a fall in overall crime rates to the lowest level in 13 years.

“Burglary, a target of Labour’s commitment card in 1999, fell dramatically to a 20-year low.

“On provisional police figures, violent offending for the last 10 months has also begun to track down.

“However there can be no cause for complacency in the fight against crime.

“We need to ensure that the new system is tough in dealing with serious and high-risk offenders.

“We must equally ensure that we are putting in place measures which prevent crime by tackling its causes, not simply responding after the event.

Key Priorities

1. Entrench tougher sentencing and parole regimes for serious and high-risk offenders. The new Sentencing and Parole Acts;

- Increase the starting point for minimum period before parole for aggravated murder from 10 to 17 years.

- Set the principle of the maximum sentence for the worst crimes.

- Abolish two-thirds automatic release to allow inmates who pose a risk to society to be kept in prison until the very end of their sentence.

- Expand preventive detention, a life sentence for high-risk serious violent and sexual offenders, to apply from age 18 (instead of 21), without the need for previous criminal convictions and extended to cover a further 21 crimes.

- Make community safety the paramount consideration for the new Parole Board and instruct that inmates who pose undue risk must not be released.

Around $90 million has been set aside to cater for an additional 300-400 inmates a year expected to result from a tougher sentencing and parole regime.

Labour will monitor closely the way in which this legislation is implemented and will make further changes if necessary to ensure that its intention to respond to public concerns expressed in the 1999 referendum is met.

2. Pass this year the Victims Rights Act making victims rights mandatory and enforceable, and extending victims’ rights.

- Victims’ rights will be extended in respect to name suppression, bail hearings, victim impact statements and parole hearings.

- Legislative change and increased funding to recover reparations will increase the ability of victims to receive compensation from offenders.

- Enhanced funding through Victim Support will protect those at risk of repeat victimisation.

- Restorative justice programmes which bring the needs of the victim to the centre of the justice system will be expanded and have received recognition in the new legislation.

3. Fully implement the new Youth Offending Strategy as a key crime prevention measure, turning young offenders away from becoming the new generation of recidivist adult criminals.

This involves;

- Youth Drug Courts using intensive judicial supervision and a coordinated team approach to tackle drug and alcohol problems of young offenders, which are associated with 80 percent of offending.

- A residential programme for serious young offenders involving 18 months intensive work to change behaviour, filling the present gap between a 3-month programme through Child, Youth & Family and prison.

- Day Reporting Centres individualising education, vocational and rehabilitative programmes for young offenders.

- Improving the effectiveness of Family Group Conferences ensuring implementation of plans agreed to.

- Creating Youth Offending Teams, from Police, Child Youth & Family, Health and Education to ensure a properly integrated and coordinated response across government agencies.

- A coherent Youth Crime information database.

4. Further reduce crime rates by fully implementing the Crime Reduction Strategy and its key target areas.

- Family violence and child abuse.

- Violent and sexual offending.

- Youth Offending.

- Burglary.

- Organised crime especially in relation to drugs such as methamphetamine.

- Car theft.

- Serious traffic offending.

5. Further strengthen Policing and tools available to police to crack down on crime.

- New DNA legislation, which includes compulsion orders for burglary and data basing all inmates with serious crime records.

- New legislation on second hand dealers to crack down on receiving.

- Updating police powers to take account of new technology.

6. Continue the reform and modernisation of the justice system and legislation. Measures will include those to:

- Give the Police Complaints Authority resourcing and legislative powers to ensure an independent investigative capacity in serious cases.

- Reform the jury trial system to improve its effectiveness.

- Modernise and restructure the coronial system.

- Introduce new Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill including an independent and high quality complaints system.

- Replace the Privy Council with a New Zealand Supreme Court.

- Establish an Independent Judicial Commission to investigate complaints against the judiciary.

- Remove gender bias from the Crimes Act so male and female offenders are treated equally.

- Reform family and civil law including in the areas of adoption, human reproductive technology and guardianship.

“This is a comprehensive programme, but considerable work has already gone into it. A tougher regime for serious offenders, preventing crime by tackling youth offenders, and strengthening victims’ rights will be the key points of progress over the next three years,” Mr Goff said.

The full policy document can viewed at www.labour.org.nz

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