National's plan to axe advisory bodies arrogant
National's plan to axe advisory bodies arrogant, says King
National's claims that it would ditch Labour's Sentencing Council and its Criminal Justice Advisory Board and give the money to the victims of crime is nothing more than "election year clap-trap" says Justice Minister Annette King.
"National's claim that - should they become the Government – they wouldn't need the advisory board is pure arrogance, because they're effectively saying they don't need advice from anyone, because they already know it all," she says.
"Labour believes in listening, on taking advice and consulting with the people who work at the coal face, and the people appointed to the advisory board were put there because of their skill, experience and level-headed advice."
Those appointees include Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army; Margaret Eames of Victim Support; Nigel Hampton QC, who has worked in the criminal justice system for many years and Lynette Stewart, who has a long experience working with Maori. The chair is David Alton, a former Secretary of Justice. The board is supported by Val Sim from the Law Commission and Judge Margaret Lee.
"It is an insult to these people that the National Party think they know it all, that the advice from these eminent people is not worth having. The advisory Board is there to give independent advice on a wide range of issues in the criminal justice system, and I'm sure all New Zealanders would be the losers if the National Party had their way."
Ms King says the proposal to get rid of the Sentencing Council is out of step with international trends. A similar body has been established in the United Kingdom.
"The aim of the council is to develop consistency in sentencing throughout the country. I know victims find it unacceptable that in one part of New Zealand, a person found guilty of a serious crime gets a certain length of sentence, while in another, the sentence could be less. The aim is to provide guidelines to judges so we can achieve better consistency."
National's Simon Power has also claimed that the money saved from disbanding these organisations would be given to victims of crime.
"This is as laughable as their last announcement on victim compensation, when they announced a $50 levy on all those who commit a crime, whether the offender be a murderer or a shop lifter. This was considered a joke at the time, as it would have raised around $10 for each victim. This latest attempt might raise that to around $20, if they are lucky."
Ms King says National's "grab-bag of political opportunism" should be compared to the serious work Labour has been doing with victims, and for victims.
"That ranges from law changes, to additional money for Victim Support; from the establishment of a victims' charter to the substantial work being undertaken on a proper victim compensation scheme by the Law Commission. Plus we are working to ensure that this lines up with the existing accident compensation scheme."