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Parole Hearings Of Victims Irrelevant


Parole Hearings Of Victims Irrelevant

The announcement that victims will now be heard by a full division of the Parole Board - instead of just a representative member - is a sign of eagerness to placate victims, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"But it is nothing more than a symbol. There is no substance while the government refuses to let the Parole Board pay attention to most of what the victims are saying," Mr Franks said.

"I've attended these victim hearings. I have no doubt representative members were able to convey victims' concerns to the Board. It was efficient and timesaving. That wasn't the problem. The problem is that Minister Goff's law stops the Board responding to the things that concern victims most. The law refuses to let victims know anything but trivial information about the criminals. For example, victims:

• can't be told what the psychologists say about the criminal.

• officially can't get any views from prison officers who have had the best opportunity to get to know the criminals.

• don't know what recommendations officials are giving the Board, so they can't properly answer them.

• only sometimes know what conditions the Board is considering.

"The Parole Board is not allowed to take into account the victims' concerns unless they relate to the likelihood that the criminal will be a danger to community when released. Otherwise the Board must dismiss as irrelevant any submission of the victim about:

• a criminal's lack of remorse

• discrepancies between a fair price for the crime and the state the victim has been left in by the crime

• the aggravating factors that impelled a judge to set a longer sentence

• ordinary people's outrage when a court-ordered punishment is made derisory by release at one-third.

"The Board's announced change of practice is a desperate attempt to help the Minister fend off any meaningful change to the parole system. Last month, with the Greens' help, his Labour colleagues again voted down my provisions to at least authorise the Board to take into account the factors considered by the Judge in setting a sentence," Mr Franks said.

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