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National challenged to back its rhetoric up

National challenged to back its rhetoric with real support for Labour's tough gang policies

Justice Minister Annette King has challenged the National Party to back tough new penalties in the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill designed to crack down on gang activity.

Ms King has written to National seeking support for the Bill, which will be tabled shortly.

"Almost every day we are forced to listen to National shedding crocodile tears over gang activities. Well, this Bill gives them a chance to back their rampant rhetoric with real action by supporting a Bill that tackles organised crime activity in a way that hasn't been seen before."

Ms King says the Bill increases the maximum penalty from five to 10 years for participation in an organised criminal group as defined under Section 98A of the Crimes Act.

"What we want to do is to better reflect the potential range of culpability that can be associated with Section 98A offending. By increasing the penalty to 10 years, we make interception warrants available for investigations, and such warrants are an essential tool in investigating participation offences."

Ms King says the Bill also amends Section 9 of the Sentencing Act (relating to aggravating and mitigating factors to be taken into account at sentencing) to make it an aggravating factor "when an offence is committed partly or wholly because of the offender's participation in an organised criminal group. This will reflect the aggravation inherent in organised criminal offending and further deter support for organised criminal groups."

Ms King says the amendments in the Bill are part of a broader strategy, including the establishment of a new agency, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ), to lead the fight against organised criminal activity.

"The National Party doesn't seem capable of getting past tired and failed old ideas like boot camps. I challenge them to support Labour's constructive approach, to put the safety of our communities ahead of political point-scoring."


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