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ACT Commends Crown Appeal

ACT Commends Crown Appeal

Thursday 4 Mar 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

The Crown appeal against Steven Williams' 15 years non-parole sentence, for murdering Coral-Ellen Burrows, is good news - parole must be abolished but, until then, we must remove the weasel words from our law, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The judge in the case did what he could in the face of precedent, but the Court of Appeal can reset sentencing `tariffs' for all cases," Mr Franks said.

"Section 104 of the Sentencing Act seems reasonably clear:

`The Court must make an order ... imposing a minimum period of imprisonment of at least 17 years in [aggravated] circumstances, unless it is satisfied that it would be manifestly unjust to do so.'

"The judge gave Williams a discount for his guilty plea and remorse.

"But the problem is that 17 years seems to have become a starting point or guideline, not a minimum. For example, the 13-years non-parole for Nika Abraham's murder of Kate Alkema makes Williams' sentence look appropriate.

"The Government can easily save everyone uncertainty, time and anguish in future cases. Justice Minister Phil Goff's Parole (Extended Supervision) and Sentencing Amendment Bill is before the House. He can amend it to give an unambiguous instruction to the judges.

"The principles should be simple. Remorse and co-operation should be normal from criminals, and should not justify a discount. Instead, every criminal who fails to show remorse - or who unjustifiably drags out the trial - should expect a substantial premium or addition to their sentence.

"I have been urging this for months. Mr Goff's patch-up Bill for his Sentencing Act 2002 does only the minimum he thinks he can get away with. The public must demand a U-turn in this area, just as Opposition is forcing the Government to U-turn on race-based law and school closures," Mr Franks said.


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