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'Soft on crims' policy causes rift in Labour

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

15 February 2006

‘Soft on crims’ policy causes rift in Labour

It is clear there is confusion in Labour’s ranks over its new ‘soft on crims’ policy, says National’s Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

“In fact, I believe there is now even a serious rift developing in Cabinet over this.

“Yesterday we had Damien O’Connor laying the groundwork for Labour’s back-track on crime by announcing he wanted to get soft on criminals and release one third of prisoners. That was in direct contrast to the work of Justice Minister Phil Goff, who for six years tried unsuccessfully to convince us he was going to be hard on criminals.

“But then Helen Clark and Phil Goff himself announce they are actually backing the ‘open’ prison idea.

“Not only that, but Newsroom tells us Helen Clark tried ‘to distance Labour’s introduction of longer penalties from the growth in prisoner numbers’ by claiming there had been a bit of ‘sentencing creep.’

“She is obviously desperate to shift the blame for the prison muster crisis, but that directly contradicts statements by Phil Goff, who has proudly claimed Labour was putting more people in jail, and that forecasts would show ‘a 20% increase in the number of people prison because of the tougher sentencing laws enacted by this Government’.

“Does Phil Goff really expect us to believe he is now backing this new soft policy after all he has said?

“I believe he has been backed into a corner by Helen Clark and has no option but to retreat,” says Mr Power.

“And that goes, too, for the sentencing, parole and bail laws. From comments Phil Goff has made today he is also going to soften those.

“Labour have known about the prison population issue since 2004, so why now are they back-tracking on these things? – because they are trying to cover themselves.

“Helen Clark and Damien O’Connor are today even making thinly veiled criticisms of judges for the reduction in home detention. That is improper, but that is how desperate they are to shift the blame for their own mess.”

ENDS

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