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Key: Action Plan for Violent Crime

John Key MP
National Party Leader

30 October 2008

Action Plan for Violent Crime
Speech to NZ Police Association National Conference

Thank you for inviting me to address your conference.

We are nine days away from a general election, and as you can see from the papers this morning, my opponents are up to their usual political games that we have seen so often before.

They’re intent on digging up dirt on me and they’re putting all their efforts into trying to find some. They have no vision for New Zealand, no new ideas. Their only goal is to scare New Zealanders into getting them over the line one last time. Well, I happen to think this country deserves better than that.

New Zealand deserves a government that has a strong and continuing focus on the real issues that matter – the economy, health services, education, and law and order. I am determined to deliver that focus.

That is why, while my opponents are spending nearly every day trying to find another way to have a go at me, I am spending every day travelling up and down New Zealand, talking to Kiwis and discussing National’s plans to tackle the issues. That’s why I was in Queenstown yesterday, Invercargill last night, and on the Kapiti Coast this morning.

Helen Clark may be interested in getting another notch on her belt, but I’m interested in getting things done.

I’m here at your conference this afternoon to talk about one of the most important concerns on the minds of New Zealanders up and down the country – their security and safety.

I share the very real frustration of the vast majority of the public that so many everyday, law-abiding New Zealanders have their lives, and the lives of their friends and families, destroyed by violent criminals.

These are hardworking New Zealanders who pay their taxes, who try to raise their families responsibly, and who do their bit for their communities. They deserve better.

In my view, members of the public have quite a clear view on law and order issues.

They understand concepts like:
Who is the offender?
Who is the victim?
Who is the law enforcement authority?

I sense that many New Zealanders are frustrated to see offenders treated with considerable care by our judicial system, victims treated so very poorly, and law enforcement officers subjected to the most minute level of scrutiny for the actions they have taken, often under the most unbelievable pressure.

As someone who hopes to be Prime Minister of this country I want to say to you that I absolutely intend to do something about this.

There is a part of the solution that rests with you as the frontline law enforcement officers in the New Zealand Police. You have within your hands a real ability to make a difference and I strongly commend you for your choice to do so.

There is another part of this solution that rests with me and my colleagues who sit in the Parliament and make New Zealand’s laws.

A National Government will work hard to support the police who in their daily work put their best efforts into making our communities safer. We will listen to you about what is working on the front line and what is not, and we will give you greater force in numbers.

We will also join you in rejecting the notion that a rising rate of violent crime is somehow inevitable, or a fact of life that must be tolerated.

I am not that cynical. I am absolutely determined that with fresh ideas and fresh resolve we can do more to prevent violent crime in our communities. The status-quo just isn’t acceptable to me.

Our opponents seem to think it’s good enough that in the past nine years:

• Violent crime has risen by a massive 47%. That’s amounts to around 18,700 extra violent offences a year.
• Assaults on police officers have reached record levels.
• Serious assaults are up 54%.
• Grievous assaults have nearly doubled.
• There are about 20 more robberies a week.
• Violent crime by youth is up 52%, with grievous assaults by youth having more than doubled.

The list goes on.

The size of the crime problem is not measurable only by crime statistics, but by the widespread fears of everyday Kiwis – Kiwis who increasingly feel that their personal security is at risk.

Paroled offenders murdering innocent citizens. Gang shootings. Youth gangs intimidating shop owners. P-induced frenzied behaviour. Children being beaten to death by their parents. These things strike worry into the hearts of all New Zealanders.

Well, it’s not good enough. It’s not the kind of New Zealand I grew up in, it’s not the kind of country you grew up in, and it’s not the kind of country I want our children to grow up in, either.

You, as police officers, do your best to alleviate this worry. But in the end your response can only ever be as effective as your Government-given mandate will allow.

If I am given the privilege of leading this country I can offer you this commitment: I will not allow a mood of resignation and denial to creep into our state agencies, into the minds of officials, or into the heart of government. Because when our leaders give in to crime, everyday New Zealanders end up paying the price.

National has a set of fresh new polices and approaches for reducing violent crime and making our communities safer.

National’s Action Plan on Violent Crime

Today I am offering you more than words. I’m sure you’re sick of a Government that promises change but takes years and months to deliver – if at all.

The time for talk is over. It’s time for action.

Today I want to make it very clear that if I am elected Prime Minister of this country in nine days’ time, I will immediately begin carrying out an action plan for reducing violent crime.

Because, in reality it’s not what you say nine days from an election that matters, it’s what you do after the election that really counts.

I have instructed my team to have legislation drafted on a number of our key law and order initiatives. While Mike Williams and the Labour Party Research Unit have been scurrying around trying to dig up dirt, my team has been focusing on important issues - including ensuring this important legislation is ready to go.

If National leads the next Government I will see to it that these laws are passed as a matter of priority.

Let me outline the 10 urgent steps National will take to turn our policies into reality:

1. We will immediately introduce legislation to clamp down on criminal gangs and the ‘P’ trade they support.

I will, through the actions of my Government, send a warning to every single ‘P’ dealer, every ‘P’ manufacturer, and every gang involved in the ‘P’ trade that National will not put up with your criminal activity.

We will launch an assault on this drug that leads to so much harm and violence in our communities. The number one way we will do that is by cracking down on the criminal gangs that manufacture and distribute ‘P’.

National has drafted legislation that will introduce a raft of measures for clamping down on gangs. They include:

 Strengthening the provisions in the Crimes Act that make it illegal to be a member of a criminal organisation.
 Changing the Sentencing Act to make gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing.
 Introducing changes to the Local Government Act to enhance police powers to remove and storm gang fortifications, and
 Enhancing the legal powers of the police to undertake surveillance of criminal gangs and ‘P’ dealing operations under the Crimes Act.

If I am Prime Minister I will also direct officials to present to the Government a complete legislative toolkit to enable the police and the courts to deal with the threat of ‘P’. That will include measures presented to and rejected by the current government.

And I will want to see proposals to toughen up the availability of precursor materials for ‘P’. Without stronger measures to restrict the availability of these materials our society will keep losing the battle against this evil drug.

2. We will tackle increasing violent youth crime by immediately bolstering the Youth Court with a range of new interventions and sentences.

It’s not good enough to simply throw up our hands and allow troublesome teens to become life-long criminals. National will act quickly to defuse some of the 1,000 or so unexploded human time-bombs who begin their criminal careers as youth offenders.

National has legislation ready to go that will give the Youth Court an expanded range of powers, including:

 Extending its jurisdiction so it can deal with 12- and 13-year-olds accused of serious offences.
 Allowing it to issue new orders requiring offenders to attend compulsory mentoring or drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, and requiring offenders’ parents, together with their children, to attend parenting programmes.
 Introducing a new option of electronic monitoring for youth offenders released on supervision.
 And, most importantly, introducing a revolutionary 12-month ‘supervision with activity’ sentence called “Fresh Start”. The Fresh Start programme will incorporate up to three months residential training at army-type facilities. The programme will call on the best youth justice expertise New Zealand has to offer. And importantly, youth on Fresh Start will be followed up with intensive mentoring to ensure they can put the lessons they’ve learnt into action.

We will pass these new laws as a matter of priority. And we will give these new Youth Court powers teeth by increasing Youth Justice and Child, Youth and Family funding in our very first Budget. This will ensure that those working in youth justice can be confident of accessing the increased resources and support needed to deal effectively with young offenders.

3. We will toughen the bail laws to make it harder for criminals awaiting trial to get bail.

National will immediately overturn Labour’s reckless changes to the bail laws to ensure courts can keep dangerous criminals behind bars while they await trial. We have the legislation ready to go and we will pass it as soon as possible. I know this is a change many of you have called for and I’m sure it will make a difference to you. We will also make any further changes to the Bail Act that are needed to ensure greater compliance with bail conditions.

4. We will remove the right of the worst repeat violent offenders to be released on parole.

I will, through the laws of this country, send a clear signal to criminal offenders that parole is a privilege, not a right. National will, as a matter of priority, make two specific changes to our parole laws.

First, any offender who has been convicted twice for a violent offence and sentenced to five years or more will not be eligible for parole.

Second, the courts do not currently have the option of sentencing an offender to life without the possibility of parole. We will change the law so that for the worst murderers life can mean life.

There are a number of people whose offences are so horrific that they do not deserve the opportunity to be released into our communities on parole. And National is determined to make sure the law reflects that reality.

5. From January next year we will begin training 600 additional sworn police officers to ensure that by the end of our first term there is one police officer for every 500 New Zealanders.

Each of the 600 sworn police officers we train will be deployed to frontline general duties in our communities. In deploying these police, we will provide a priority-boost to Counties Manukau.

I believe that the citizens of South Auckland deserve better than the lip service they have received from Labour. Violence in Counties-Manukau has soared by 65% in the past nine years, and yet Counties-Manukau has the second lowed police-to-population ratio of any police district in the country.

People in South Auckland deserve a police force that is big enough to respond effectively to crime, big enough to actively prevent crime, and one that has a visible presence on their streets to deter crime. My Government will commit 300 new sworn police to frontline roles in South Auckland by the end of 2010.

Obviously you will require logistical and resourcing support from the Government to meet these requirements, and National is committed to working with the police to ensure you have the support you need to make this policy work, and work well.

6. We’ll make it easier for police to catch and prosecute criminals by giving them the power to take DNA from every person arrested for an imprisonable offence.

We will pass this law as a matter of priority and work with police to provide the resources needed to ensure that, by the end of our first term at the latest, this is the practice of every police district in the country. As is the case with fingerprints and photographs, we will require DNA records to be destroyed where charges are dropped or where suspects are found not guilty.

7. We’ll immediately introduce legislation giving police the power to issue time-bound on-the-spot protection orders to help protect victims of domestic violence.

I know you are frequently called to domestic situations where it is blindingly clear that a mother or her children are under serious threat from an abusive and violent partner. I think it’s ridiculous that, faced with these situations, you, our trusted police officers, are hamstrung in your instinct to provide immediate protection to these victims.

National will immediately introduce a bill changing the law that currently requires you to apply to the court for these protection orders, and we will enhance your discretionary power to grant such orders on a temporary basis. We will pass this law as a matter of priority.

This will provide you with an immediate response to dangerous domestic situations, and will enhance protection of victims until courts are able to deal with the matter.

8. We will immediately introduce legislation to set up a Victims Compensation Scheme funded by a levy on criminals and we’ll upgrade the follow-up services for victims of crime.

It’s time the Government of New Zealand provided leadership on victims’ rights. I will make it very clear where I stand on this issue: Where there is a balancing of rights to be done between criminals and victims I will take a side. And that side will be the side of the victim.

And where New Zealanders do become victims of crime, my Government will act to give them the increased support and recognition they deserve.

National has already drafted legislation to set up a Victims Compensations Scheme funded by a levy on all offenders. It will also ensure that any compensation received by prisoners goes either directly to their victims or to the Victim Compensation Scheme. We will introduce and pass this legislation as a matter of priority.

9. We’ll increase the maximum sentences for offenders who commit acts of violence and abuse against children.

Like all New Zealanders, I am sickened by the tales of abuse of young children and the callousness of some adults who should have been providing them care and protection but instead treated them worse than animals.

My Government will send a strong message that violence against children will not be tolerated.

In our first year of office we will amend the Crimes and Sentencing Acts to increase sentences for assaulting a child, for manslaughter following a history of child abuse, for failure to provide the necessities of life, for child cruelty, and for wilful neglect of a child.

10. We’ll make our prisons work smarter by increasing drug and alcohol rehabilitation and compulsory work programmes for prisoners.

It’s not acceptable to me that convicted criminals are able to spend their time in prison without being properly challenged to change their behaviour. And it seems ludicrous that there is so little provision for drug and alcohol treatment in our prisons, despite the tomes of evidence linking drug and alcohol problems to criminal offending.

As a first step, National will in our first year change parole guidelines to make it absolutely explicit that those prisoners who are able to work but who refuse to are not eligible for parole.

National will, by 31 December 2011, boost the number of prisoners learning industry-based skills through Corrections Inmate Employment by at least 1,000.

National will also, by 2011, double the number of prisoners who are able to receive intensive drug and alcohol treatment to 1,000.

National’s Approach

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just outlined for you a series of policy and legislative initiatives that I pledge National will take should we lead the next Government.

This is not an exhaustive list. It by no means covers all the steps National will take in our first three years to make New Zealand communities safer.

But it does give you an understanding of the comprehensive measures we will take to crack down on crime.

What you can see is that my team, led by Justice and Corrections spokesman Simon Power, has carefully thought through and prepared the legislative and other steps needed to stop the escalating rates of violent crime in our communities and to help you in your efforts to keep New Zealanders safe.
Our policy takes sensible steps to address failures evident in New Zealand’s current approach to crime. The failures are obvious.

As a country we fail to do enough to intercept young kids who are running off the rails and put them back on the rails.

When offenders are placed in our prisons, we fail to make any meaningful progress with rehabilitation, or even to keep them free from the drugs that play a major part in much of their behaviour.

And we fail even more when our bail, sentencing, and parole laws allow those people, who have become hardened criminals, back into our communities when it is abundantly obvious that they will reoffend.

Police officers tell me of the frustration they feel as they watch young offenders graduating through the ranks of criminality, able to predict with certainty that they will inevitably commit very serious offences that will have a very real impact on innocent victims and their families.

National’s Action Plan for Violent Crime will take the practical steps necessary to start addressing these failures and to squarely face the challenge of escalating violent crime.

Backing the Police

Before I leave today I want to discuss the role that the members of the New Zealand Police must play if we are to make our communities much safer.

Let me first acknowledge that police have a very real and unique view of their communities. So National believes that if they want to serve their communities in an elected position at local levels then they should be allowed to do so. I am sure many communities would benefit from having a police view expressed at city or district council level.

If in nine days’ time I’m elected to be Prime Minister of New Zealand, I will back the people who wear the police uniform.

I will expect high standards of conduct and professionalism. I will expect you to enforce the law without fear or favour. And I will expect total political neutrality.

I will expect the police to employ the laws passed by our Parliament to deal with the terrible sickness in our society that is the ‘P’ epidemic.

I will expect the police to use the full force of the law to shut down the organised gangs that control the distribution of these drugs, intimidate our communities, and who have far too much control of the operation of our prisons.

And, where the laws passed by our Parliament are deficient for these purposes, I will want to hear frankly and clearly what changes need to be made so we can make them work.

I want to bring some common sense to the way we attack the law and order problems that so seriously worry our communities.

I want you to know that I greatly value and admire the work that is done daily by our police officers.

I want you to know that I will value your input and I will back you to do your job well.

If I am elected by New Zealand to be Prime Minister, you, the New Zealand Police, will enjoy my strong personal support.

And I most sincerely hope that with our combined attention to good law making and good policing we will be able to make a real difference.


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