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Escaped Crim? Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Escaped Crim? Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today demanded that Justice Minister Phil Goff get off his chuff and fix the Sentencing Act, in light of reports that an armed robber is now at large after being freed to apply for Home Detention.

"Joseph Herbert was set free to apply for Home Detention. He was not subject to any conditions, and current legislation means that no one is responsible for supervision of criminals on deferred sentences - this is a criminal's dream come true," Mr Franks said.

"What hardened criminal will not disappear at the first opportunity? While the Government has gone to great pains to ensure that prison is as comfortable for these `poor' criminals as possible - with trips to sporting events, family celebrations and the movies - it is obvious that offenders would rather be free to do what they want, when they want.

"Thus, it stands to reason that, when given the opportunity, these criminals will run as fast and as far their stolen sneakers will carry them. Labour's naïve view, that criminals are just victims of offensive middle-class prejudice, means it is taken by surprise when offenders - sent home to apply for home detention - decide to do a runner. But why? Criminals are good at running - and usually faster when not weighed down by a stereo or TV set.

"It must be very distressing for the Government to realise that criminals do not behave themselves just because a judge thinks they ought to. Perhaps Labour is only just realising that a willingness to break the law, rather than obey it, is a pre-requisite for a criminal career.

"It's time for Labour to get its head out of the clouds. Mr Goff must do more than simply `consider' changes to the Sentencing Act, he must implement them - urgently. If he does not, more criminals will go to ground when told to go home, stay home, and think seriously about what they have done. Mr Goff doesn't even need to do the thinking - the amendments that ACT moved to his Bill last year would be a start.

"The Sentencing Act took away judges' power to impose all sorts of conditions on sentences. That was absolutely deliberate. It makes sure the Parole Board gets the power to actually decide the sentences, and ensures that the court sentencing process is just a charade - while pretending to the punters that prison is still where crime will take you," Mr Franks said.

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