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Returning The Power To The Judges

Returning The Power To The Judges

Thursday 9 Sep 2004

Dr Muriel Newman - Press Releases - Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader and Police Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today welcomed the drawing of her Sentencing (Community Sentencing to Fit the Crime) Amendment Bill from the Private Members Ballot.

"The Sentencing Act removed and narrowed judges' discretion to fit supervision and community work sentences to the crime - they cannot order an accountant to keep a charity's books, even if the accountant wants to work off the crime in that way," Dr Newman said.

"Worse, judges face serious restrictions on the use of community sentencing and supervision for ordinary punishment purposes. They can order supervision in an offender's interests, and to prevent further offending, but no supervision order may last longer than two years.

"Judges' powers to ban an offender from associating with criminals or consorting with gang members have also been severely limited. This Bill:

· restores judges' discretion to use supervision for punishment, as well as in the interests of the offender;

· enables judges to impose supervision conditions against causes of crime - like associating with gangs - and to require scheduled or random alcohol or drug testing;

· allows judges to stipulate non-association terms as conditions of supervision;

· allows judges to stipulate for supervision at the end of prison sentences;

· allows supervision sentences to be cumulative instead of concurrent;

· restores judges' powers to stipulate where community work will be done and to impose conditions on it;

"The Sentencing and Parole Acts turned sentencing into a charade. Judges may assess depravity, and a need to denounce a crime - even mention it in their judgement - but can't reflect in a community sentence anything but the offender's interests and prospects of reoffending.

"Probation officers decide all the significant elements of the community sentence, including where it will be served, when, how, who with, and what work will be done.

"This Bill reinstates court control over punishment, and enhances probation service powers to ensure discipline among community work attendees. Probation officers requested power to sanction poor behaviour or lateness without having to waste their, and the courts', time on formal disciplinary charges. This Bill gives them the power to impose school type `detention' of up to 10 percent of a day's sentence for mis-conduct on that day," Dr Newman said.


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