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Report wrong on changes in judges powers

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

20 July 2002

Report wrong on changes in judges powers

Justice Minister Phil Goff says a report in the Christchurch Press today that claims that changes in the new Sentencing Act prevented a Christchurch District Court Judge from imposing a tougher sentence on a 15-year-old offender is absolutely incorrect.

“The law has in fact not changed the options open to the court in dealing with the offender. It is totally wrong to say the new Sentencing Act imposed any new restrictions at all on what the judge was able to do.

“It has always been the case that for an offender of this age to be imprisoned, the offence must be a purely indictable one (ie one generally carrying a penalty of over ten years imprisonment.)

“The youth has been imprisoned for two years for his kidnapping conviction. A maximum penalty of 14 years is available for this offence.

“The new Youth Offending Strategy will provide further options for dealing with serious young offenders.

“There is a major gap in the system which has meant those serious young offenders either have to be dealt with by short term custody (up to three months) in a youth residence, or are sent to jail.

“The first offers too little time to deal with the entrenched problems usually associated with recidivist offending.

“The new programme targets repeat offenders aged 14-16. While offenders guilty of crimes such as rape and murder will not be considered for the programme, those targeted will be the more serious offenders otherwise on a path to life in prison.

“The programme involves intensive rehabilitation, addressing all the causes of a young offenders behaviour.

“An 18-month three-stage programme with a residential period of up to one year will be sufficiently long to make a difference.

“The programme will operate in phases beginning with tightly restrictions and detoxification. The final stages of the programme will involve job training and employment by private sector mentors such as Stephen Tindall,” Mr Goff said.


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