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Simple ACT Solution For Non-Parole Law Bungle

Simple ACT Solution For Non-Parole Law Bungle

Tuesday 3 Sep 2002

ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks today circulated to every party in Parliament a Bill to solve the non-parole law problem currently tying up the Court of Appeal.

"The Crown has appealed against Justice Salmon's view that he could not give Haden Brown a non-parole period for bashing his mother into permanent care. My Bill fixes a bungle made shortly before the election when Justice Minister Phil Goff hastily amended the Sentencing Bill after it had been reported back from Select Committee, to reintroduce a limited power for judges to stipulate a non-parole period.

"Mr Goff first deliberately tried to remove judges' power to fix non-parole. He wanted to make sure judges could not upset his scheme to let nearly all prisoners apply for parole at one third of the sentence. After an uproar at a Sensible Sentencing Trust meeting when Labour MP Rick Barker was castigated by victims of crime, the Minister introduced an amendment to allow judges to fix a non-parole period. But it was half hearted. They can require only up to two thirds of the sentence, or 10 years, whichever is the lesser, and only where the crime is "out of the ordinary".

"Justice Priestley recently set a five-year minimum non-parole period to stop a brutal rapist getting out at one third of his 10 year sentence but worried that he might be stretching the law to hold that the rape was not ordinary for its kind.

"These uncertainties discredit the law. They contribute to the criminals' view that there are hundreds of technicalities just waiting for their lawyers to use to get them out early. The hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted in legal aid and appeal costs would be far better applied to catching criminals or keeping them locked up.

"Mr Goff has known of this problem in the law for more than two months. He should have promised to fix it immediately. It doesn't take complex drafting. My Bill will achieve it for him.

"The best solution would be for the Government to pick up the Bill as it is and introduce it immediately. If they won't we will simply have to wait for the Members' Ballot to come up with the right number.

"I would be pleased if any MP picked up this Bill for their ballot slot. There are members of United Future and New Zealand First who might be looking for a suitable Bill to put in the ballot. I hope they will help us fix this bungle immediately, because I fear the Government would rather let the courts continue to struggle than admit their new law is bad," Stephen Franks said.


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