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Is Mr Caldwell Working for Labour not Victims?

Is Mr Caldwell Working for Labour not Victims?

Tuesday 23 Jul 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

This morning's radio outburst from Steve Caldwell of Victim Support National Office against "tough on crime" politicians is a sorry entry into politics says ACT's Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

"He has weighed in for his Labour paymasters when he should have been crying to the heavens about Justice Minister Phil Goff's scandalous inattention to victims.

"There are hundreds of decent and hard working people involved in Victim Support at 67 agencies around the country. But he has just watched as Phil Goff sat on the Victims' Rights Bill through an entire Parliament. We have tried at every opportunity to get the Victim Rights Bill advanced, where has Mr Caldwell been. Sadly I suspect that Steve Caldwell's move is not a genuine entry into substantive debate. His office seems to have been a government poodle for as long as I have been an MP.

"Among my first steps as ACT Justice spokesman was to write to every Victim Support local office. I sought comment and examples of the kinds of issues on which I should involve myself, bearing in mind the concern for victims shown in the Withers' referendum.

"I have seen no public criticism of the Government's failure to give any priority to the Victims' Rights Bill which Labour inherited from National. The Victim Support submissions to the Select Committee considering that Bill were pathetic.

"It was left to Sensible Sentencing Trust and VOICE to point out obvious flaws, such as the continuing absence of a right for victims to be heard in court, or to make any comment on matters other than the injuries to themselves, or to tell a judge what they think the sentence ought to be.

"Mr Caldwell never commented on the insulting difference between victims' rights, and Phil Goff's new insistence that courts must hear from an offender's whänau and representatives if they want to say what they think the sentence should be.

"Mr Caldwell claimed today that the Withers' referendum was more about victim reparations than about punishment. I have been in frequent contact with Mr Withers. I know ACT is pursuing exactly the balanced package of reforms that he sought.

"Among the gravest insults to victims in Mr Goff's new law is the failure to let judges or the parole board ensure that every criminal pays a price for crime that does not leave the victim feeling they are intended to be worse off than the criminal as a result of the crime.

"Mr Goff refers to his new reparation provisions. They prohibit the court from ordering that a criminal perform any work or service for a victim. They prevent a reparation order where it might mean hardship to the offender or his family, with no reference to whether the hardship to the victim or the victim's family outweighs the criminal's problem.

"Mr Goff refers to increases in funding available to Victim Support. It amounts to $2 per victim in the budget estimates.

"I have repeatedly criticised the inadequate funding to Victim Support. Now, given the inadequacy of their National Office I am not so sure. Much more is needed at local level. Overall it is around 1/700th of the amounts allocated to justice, police and prisons. Victims deserve better, from the Government and from Victim Support," Stephen 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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