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Statistics/review show Sentencing Act working well

6 September 2004

Media statement

Statistics, review show Sentencing Act working well

Two years after its introduction, statistics show that the Sentencing Act's tougher laws are having a strong impact, says Justice Minister Phil Goff.

"There are clear indications that tougher legislation - as asked for by the public in a referendum in 1999 - is having a strong impact in the areas of sentencing, bail, parole and preventive detention," Mr Goff said.

"Recent statistics confirm trends identified in a review released today that shows that even in its first 12 months, the Act was having an impact and generally working as intended."

- Figures for August 2004 show prison numbers are up 978, or 16.5 per cent, on June 2002, despite record falls in the crime rate;

- A Parole Board report for the year to 30 June 2004 shows the number of parole hearings being declined have increased eight per cent to 59 per cent;

- Tougher laws that deny bail to recidivist offenders resulted in an extra 1000 people being remanded in custody last year compared to 2000;

- Preventive detention is being more widely used than ever before. In the past two years seven offenders (five of them in 2004) have been given preventive detention for purely violent offending. Before the Act, there had only ever been one such sentence handed down.

"Some unintended and unforeseen issues such as too many offenders being granted leave to apply for home detention, and too many being able to defer the start date of their sentences, were addressed in the Parole (Extended Supervision) Amendment Act," Mr Goff said.

Key findings of the review of the first 12 months of the Act include:

Minimum terms of imprisonment: These are being imposed for serious offences where there was aggravating factors and high culpability. The range of offending attracting minimum terms has gone well beyond the old "serious violent offence" category, to include some drug and burglary offences.

Sentencing for murder: The new regime is working well, with the individual circumstances of the offences and offenders taken into account at sentencing. The result has been the longest-ever minimum periods of imprisonment imposed for murder, for cases with very serious aggravating factors and high culpability.

Preventive detention: The new regime is having an impact with a sentence of preventive detention imposed for aggravated robbery, an offence for which it was not available prior to the Act.

Reparation: Reparation was imposed in 8.6 per cent of convictions in 2002/03 - greater than the total reparation and part payment of fine orders imposed in each of the four previous years. The use of reparation in combination with other sentences has also increased, with 12 per cent of reparation orders being accompanied by imprisonment - up on eight per cent in 2001/02. The largest reparation imposed was for $377,518.

Fines: The increased use of fines in appropriate cases was one objective of the Act. Overall, the use of fines has not increased but this is because the Act places greater emphasis on reparation, and removes the part payment of fines to victims. Consequently, reparations are now being imposed where previously a fine, with part payment to the victim, would have been ordered.

Note: The Sentencing Act rview can be found at www.justice.govt.nz


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