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Franks: Criminal Justice Policy Speech

Criminal Justice Policy - A Coming Orewa Experience For Labour And National

Stephen Franks

Speech notes to ACT members, New Leader's lunch, Crowne Plaza, Albert St, Auckland, 12:15pm, Sunday June 20, 2004.

Rodney Hide has asked me to explain my undertaking - last Sunday when we announced ACT's new leadership - that I will turn criminal justice into the next Orewa nightmare for Justice Minister Phil Goff and Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson.

Remember their shock only four months ago when their usual chants of "redneck" failed to turn the tide. Their screeching just bounced off Dr Brash. He had tipped a balance. He restored freedom to millions of New Zealanders - the freedom to openly express the common sense they'd been thinking about the Treaty industry.

They're just as rightfully fed up with crime. The gap between Mr Goff's goofy policies, common sense, honesty and fairness is just as great. The gap is just as great between what Government is delivering and the trusting, safe, openhearted community that we want, that we were, and that we can be again.

So I make my prediction and my promise. We'll see that anointed class smugness shattered again. But there will be one big difference. The criminal justice Orewa experience won't only shock Labour. It will also shock National.

Let me explain why with a story. It's a true story, about a defeated party leadership candidate and what he did the morning after. Last Monday morning I came to Auckland. I'd been asked by Mrs Belinda Reaney to help her persuade the Parole Board that Anthony Roma should serve more of his sentence of life imprisonment. Mrs Reaney's life sentence started one night in 1991, when Roma chose her home to climb into.

He wanted to kill pakeha. So her seven-year-old son was slaughtered in his bed, and her older son savagely injured. Ten years later, the justice authority thought that Roma should go free. The Reaneys had to oppose parole. They told them he would offend again.

They were ignored. They were told that his parole conditions would work. He was to abstain from drugs and alcohol, and stay with his family. Of course none of these conditions were enforced, and of course Roma struck again - fortunately this time a man in a park was the focus of his sexual attack.

Last Monday, the Parole Board was more respectful. They explained it was stuck with laws that did not let them look at the purposes of sentencing, that they had no defined benchmark for the level of risk innocent people must accept, that they had no guidance on what victims interests they had to respect.

They are forced to tell victims "trust us". The victims know that we have no reason to trust anyone in the justice establishment. It is not the Parole Board's fault, they don't write these laws.

But the Government dumps on them. Labour Ministers know the ground is shifting. David Cunliffe could only yell "are sob stories all you've got" when I raised this case in Parliament on Thursday.

National, too, senses the shift. Dr Brash will announce their criminal justice themes on July 4. But they won't fix it. They will talk of reforms, and reviews, and tightening up, when it is transformation we need - abolishing parole, not restructuring it; ending name suppression, not limiting it; truth in sentencing, half the truth is not the truth; life meaning life, not just some extra years. Victims with real rights, not just more patronising politeness. The right to know that justice has been done, that crime won't pay, that the State will make criminals cower, not those they prey on.

Transforming New Zealanders exposure to crime is straightforward. We don't even need to pioneer. New York has shown how. We can encourage a new generation to sleep with wide-open windows on a hot summer night, to walk home in the dusk without wondering whether it is wise. We can tell farming families they are safe, we can reassure the elderly that they won't be mugged into dependency.

It simply needs determination. Determination that excuses won't work. That crime won't pay, that sentences will be served, that fines will be collected.

It is not complex. Our grandparents achieved it. With the will, and the means we now have, we can do better than them.

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