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Appeal Court Damns Minister's Pride and Joy

Appeal Court Damns Minister's Pride and Joy

Thursday 31 Jul 2003 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today described yesterday's Appeal Court judgement, on the section of the Sentencing Act that allows judges to set minimum non-parole periods, as a very blunt condemnation of Justice Minister Phil Goff.

"It highlights what ACT has told Mr Goff all along. He can't keep denying the problems with his Sentencing Act. Despite the polite court language, this judgement is extraordinary. It is rare for judges to cite a Minister's speech in Parliament - only to contradict it, highlighting that his claims were wrong," Mr Franks said.

"They refer to his false claim, that judges could set a non-parole sentence for `people who constituted a risk', and noted that the section has nothing to do with risk - it has to do with `the adequacy of punishment, denunciation and deterrence inherent in a one-third period'.

"This is not the first time the Courts have condemned the Sentencing Act. During the hearing, earlier this month, an Appeal judge described the obscure Section 86 as `inept drafting', and `something like the Hampton Maze'.

"I offered to help repair Mr Goff's Act for him when it was going through. His refusal led me to believe the obscurity was deliberate. If Mr Goff continues to take no notice, he is preferring to waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars on court and police time, and legal aid.

"Tipping J spoke for all five judges, when he pleaded with Parliament to rewrite Section 86 more clearly. He said they saw `major problems' with the section, and could `foresee this subject being a fertile source of difficulty for some time to come, both for sentencing judges, and on appeal'.

"Since May last year, the Minister has been pretending to ordinary people to want tougher sentencing, knowing he had rammed through cute drafting to stop judges from being tough.

"He made Section 86 so obscure so he could continue to blame judges for weak sentences, even though he was forcing them to stick with his scheme to turn court sentencing into a charade, with longer headline sentences, meanwhile propping the prison backdoor wide open with earlier parole for everyone, including rapists," Mr Franks said.


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