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The Farce That Is Our Justice System

The Farce That Is Our Justice System

Friday 11 Jun 2004

Dr Muriel Newman - Speeches - Crime & Justice

The sentencing in Whangarei, this week, of 20-year-old Julie Johnson for the killing of teenager Renee Brown has once again highlighted the scandal of parole.

This young woman, who drove her car into a crowd of partygoers, has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Since the Judge did not specify a non-parole period, Johnson could be eligible for parole after 28 months, or one-third of her sentence. But, by having already spent 16 months in custody, she could be out on parole in only 12 months.

The fact that someone who was sentenced to seven years prison for killing and injuring innocent people could be released after only a year is a miscarriage of justice. Releasing an offender after serving only a token sentence provides no justice at all for the victims, their family and friends. How can people be expected to respect a justice system that considers that a crime deserves a seven-year sentence but, then as a matter of course, reduces it by two-thirds?

If New Zealand's justice system is to retain any credibility at all, it is imperative that parole is abolished. The present scam - introduced by the Labour Government - perpetrates the lie that sentences are longer than they really are. This must stop.

When this soft-on-crime Labour Government introduced its sentencing and parole reform legislation - which cuts sentences by two-thirds - opponents warned that it would turn the law into a farce. This case shows that that has clearly now happened.

But if anyone was in any doubt at all, this week's revelations that New Zealand criminals can have hundreds of convictions - up to almost 800 - and still walk free is a damning indictment of our justice system. Surely there comes a point where a society can say that such offenders are a menace and should be denied their liberty? In the US, they say `three strikes and you're out'. Under Labour, you can have hundreds of strikes and still be in.

I suggest that it is time to change the Government, so we can give the justice system some teeth: parole should be abolished, so that offenders serve the full court imposed sentence, and repeat offenders should locked up in prison on the maximum sentence available for the crime, so that they can't re-offend.


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