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Wealth Fines Will Need Vast New State Database

Wealth Fines Will Need Vast New State Database

Monday 15 Mar 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today accused Courts Minister Rick Barker of trying to distract the public from the failure of Justice Minister Phil Goff's 2002 Sentencing Act changes.

"I don't think Mr Barker really means his latest plan - to fine rich people more for offences like speeding - to run at all. He's just trying to start hares running, so people won't focus on Mr Goff's disastrous law changes in 2002," Mr Franks said.

"But if the Minister is serious, he may be signalling an expansion in Government nosiness. He talked about rich people, but he might mean only high-income people. There is a difference. If fines are based on tax-reported income, the data is readily available.

"Income-based fines would, however, sting hard-working people - while many rich people will be at the bottom end of the reported income scale. The wealthy with good tax deductions, non-working spouses, and idle children will benefit. A worker doing overtime, with no tax write-offs or assets, will be hit - while the boss could be away laughing.

"If Mr Barker truly means it to be wealth-based, Labour will have to know what everyone is worth. This is no problem in Nordic countries - which have annual wealth taxes, so everyone's wealth is recorded. But we would require an enormous new database.

"If the courts can't determine just how wealthy an offender really is, it can't work. If they rely on what the offender tells them, cheats will get the benefit.

"The Sentencing Act told judges to issue fines, instead of other penalties - while it makes it harder to properly punish people who scoff at their fines," Mr Franks said.


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