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ACT Welcomes Withers Referendum

Wednesday 7th July 1999
Patricia Schnauer
Media Release -- Justice

ACT Justice Spokesman Patricia Schnauer today congratulated Christchurch man Norm Withers on his petition that will see a referendum on reform of the Justice system held at the general election. "I applaud Norm Withers and particularly his mother Nan whose courage will help to protect others.

"The petition will ask New Zealanders whether the justice system should place more emphasis on the needs of victims who suffer at the hands of criminals. I believe that for too long we have put the rights of criminals above the rights of the community to be protected.

"The voice of victims must be given more weight not only in sentencing, but also in bail applications and restoration.

"Criminals are getting off too lightly. New Zealanders are sick and tired of seeing criminals walking free from prison after serving just a fraction of their Court imposed sentences. For serious crimes like threatening to kill, criminals are on average serving just 9% of the maximum sentence for that crime.

Between 1994 and 1998 2141 people were convicted of threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm, 7 years maximum, (home invasion maximum 10 years.) Of the 2141 convicted, only 487 or 23% were sent to prison and served on average 7.9 months in jail. Just 9% of the maximum, but, 151 of those offenders only served 3 months in jail or 3.5% of the maximum sentence of seven years.

"It is time we sent a very strong message to criminals that if they commit the crime they will do the time. New Zealanders expect the Courts to be doing that through appropriate sentences.

"The Withers petition gives law and order the weight it deserves on the national agenda. It is time the politicians and the Courts listened to what New Zealanders expect of the Justice system," said Patricia Schnauer.


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