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Sentence Shaves Scandalous

Sentence Shaves Scandalous

"Today's reduction of the sentences of Bruce Howse - convicted of murdering his step-daughters Saliel and Olympia - and RSA triple murderer William Dwane Bell are Sentencing Act failures," ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Both were sentenced to life imprisonment. As everyone knows, criminals serve only the non-parole period of their so-called life sentence," Mr Franks said.

"For more than a year, Justice Minister Phil Goff has admitted problems with his law, but the Government refuses to timetable a repair - even after the Court of Appeal last week pleaded with Parliament for reform.

"In the Howse case, the Sentencing Act's conflicting instructions have forced the Court of Appeal to tinker with sentences handed down by a Judge who heard all the evidence. In response to Howse's lawyer's complaint that 28 years left Howse with `no hope for the future', the Court pointed out that Howse's crime left Saliel and Olympia with no future at all.

"But they then have to note that the Sentencing Act meant they `must impose the least restrictive outcome that is appropriate in the circumstances'.

"Judges must be given the power to fix sentences that do justice and, in these cases, make life mean life. The law should also change to discourage legally aided appeals, which offer no downside for the criminals, but multiply the misery of the victims.

"Sentences should only be reduced when there is obvious gross injustice. Shaving three years off the sentences of two murderers is tinkering, and offers cruel insult to the victims," Mr Franks said.

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