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Franks - Protect victims, not criminals

Protect victims, not criminals

Stephen Franks Friday, 10 June 2005 Speeches - Crime & Justice

Speech to ACT Crime and Justice policy launch; Parliament House grounds; Friday, 10 June 2005; 1pm.

Three years ago on a wet grey day the Sensible Sentencing Trust and victims’ families brought more than 600 of these crosses representing their murdered loved ones to these steps of Parliament.

They wanted politicians and the country to be reminded, before people voted, of the personal sadness and loss behind every one of New Zealand's appalling violent crime statistics.

Today we are updating the message with a cross for each fresh murder victim since then. I do not apologise for drawing on the Sensible Sentencing Trust's inspiration. They were appealing for honest promises from all politicians.

I was proud to be part of that march. I was proud to be able to stand here then to tell Rita Choy, and David Merriweather's parents, that every word of ACT’s Criminal Justice policy meant exactly what it said.

ACT does not simply wheel out smooth words and weasel phrases at election time. Our policy does not talk of “reviewing” or “considering” or “moving towards” or “planning”.

Our actions speak for our sincerity. I could point to the hundreds of precise amendments ACT moved to Mr Goff's Sentencing Act. We could point to our implacable opposition to his Parole Act. We could point to Richard Prebble's Truth in Sentencing Bill in the previous Parliament. Remember the practical action, not just promises, in the home invasion law my predecessor Patricia Schnauer had driven through and which Mr Goff removed.

I am therefore proud to be standing here releasing ACT’s core criminal justice policy. It has been updated but no principle has changed.

Those longstanding principles underlie our practical New Zealand version of California’s hugely successful “three strikes and you’re out” law. Doing it again after two previous ‘second’ chances must show the criminal is contemptuous of the law. It is time to show the community’s contempt for the crime. Have you ever seen a judge impose the maximum sentence? We will ensure those maxima are used.

On parole our strength of purpose has already changed others. Now we have National and NZ First competing to look as if they too will end parole, after treating it as “extreme” when ACT first dared challenge this scandalous fraud on victims and on justice.

But look carefully at their words. They are weasel words, meant to look macho but leaving plenty of wriggle room to renege in power.

We’re here to make sure they can’t slither away this time when Labour is ejected. We are the guarantee of genuine change. When Rodney Hide took on the IRD he did not buckle. Nor will ACT against the politicians and judges and bureaucrats who’ve ignored the people's commonsense for so long.

They’ve constructed an entire justice system on the loopy theory that if we are just nice enough for long enough to the thugs and thieves, they will decide to be nice back. Labour and their National look-alikes have now had 30 years to test that loopy theory. We guarantee to bring that experiment to an end.

We have to. We are standing amidst crosses that show just a fraction of the cost of that experiment. When we say we will ensure tougher sentencing for violent crime we mean every sentence, every word, every syllable. We mean it for the sake of the 45,000 people who will be bashed, raped robbed or murdered in New Zealand this year.

For ACT, criminal justice policy is not just a ritual, an unpleasant necessity to pander to the punters. For ACT, Criminal Justice is at the core of our beliefs. We believe in freedom, and freedom is impossible where adults are not treated as fully responsible for their actions. A government that pays lip service to upholding the law, and protecting the innocent and the defenceless from the greedy, the ruthless, and the depraved, is no government worth having.

I am also proud because this is not a dark and pessimistic message. ACT’s realistic vision is for New Zealand to be again one of the safest countries in the world. Our policies have worked in places far less promising, including New York.

Optimism about criminal justice may be fresh and new for New Zealand, but that is simply because of the cynicism that has settled over this country after 30 years of posturing by politicians who do not believe in what they promise.

Keeping law-abiding people safe from thugs, thieves and rapists can be done. But it needs a revolution -- putting victims’ interests ahead of the so-called needs of criminals.

So ACT puts victims first. And they simply want justice. We believe in deterrence. We believe in personal responsibility. We will not apologise for locking up the few thousand thugs who do most of our serious crime for as long as it takes to protect innocent people.

Zero tolerance will tell them that a new sheriff has come to town, that they’ll do the time if they do the crime. Rehabilitation will require genuine remorse:

- There will be enough police to catch them.

- For every crime there will be a price.

- The law is not a game and tricky legal defences should not be worthwhile.

- Victims will have a say on the sentence and feeble excuses will not work.

- There will be truth-in-sentencing with the abolition of parole.

- Supervision conditions will be enforced after every sentence.

- I believe we can reduce New Zealand crime as steeply as the best US states have achieved.

We should expect to cut violent crime rates by 40 percent over five years.


- End pointless family group conferencing. Feckless families are causes of crime, not solutions to it.

- End legal interference with schools trying to uphold high behaviour standards.

- Treat young people as responsible for their actions.

- End suppression of criminal records.

- Require all able-bodied young men to work.

- Focus the police first on thieves and thugs, and only then on traffic tickets, and unintended wrongs.

- End automatic concurrent sentencing. There must be some price for every extra conviction, so we do not have police just accepting that criminals will go out to commit extra free crimes after they’ve been caught for one, as reported in last Tuesday's Dominion Post.

- For truth-in-sentencing, abolish early release and parole so the sentence given is the sentence served.

- Require the maximum sentence after three repeat offences, automatically.

- Require that life will mean life for first-degree murder.

- Require judges to allow victims to say what they think on sentencing, so they can do more than write sad accounts of how badly they’ve been hurt.

- Impose supervision instead of parole after every sentence, with electronic monitoring of work and family and reparation responsibilities.


We’ll publish honest crime rates, and international comparisons, but there are more fundamental measures, like:

- Walls free of graffiti, and public facilities and parks not vandalised.

- Feeling confident and safe in any city street anywhere, anytime.

- Feeling comfortable about your unguarded car, bach or other property.

- Security guard companies complaining of hard times.

- Insurance premiums dropping along with the $7 billion per year cost of crime.

- Bus and train users cease to worry about the night walk from their stop.

- Women and the elderly living alone feeling genuinely safe in their homes.

- Children again allowed to get themselves safely to and from school.

- Newspapers short of stories of appalling crimes and pathetic sentences.

ACT policies will rebuild the natural trust in others that was a hallmark of being a New Zealander.


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