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ACT - for the Rule of Law

Richard Prebble Speech To Launch ACT's Law & Order Policy 1.00pm Tuesday November 23 1999 Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill.

I have come to Invercargill because this city has become a symbol of the break down in Government responsibility to protect New Zealanders from lawlessness.

What happened to the Lawton family is every one's worst nightmare -a gang move in next door and terrorise you. The Lawton's stood up for their rights as New Zealanders and the State let them down.

Why should the Lawton's have to go into hiding? Why should gang members be able to make such brazen threats?

I saw Mr Lawton on the television saying,"well, at least my family is safe for six years, while Charles Te Kahu is in prison. The Lawton's are not safe for six years. Under a law passed by Labour and National that gang member can be out of jail in just two years. As he was held in jail prior to the trial - the gang member could be out in as little as 18 months.

We have not got the rule of law when families like the Lawton's can be threatened and terrorised.

A basic function of any government is to provide the "Queen's peace" to ensure the rule of law, to provide law and order.

ACT MPs from the moment we arrived in Parliament have called for tougher more effective laws and more Police on the beat. The first change we must make is to pass Truth in Sentencing into law. Every offender should serve at least 80% of their court imposed prison sentence.

Let's stop our revolving door bail system where 17% of offenders on bail commit new crimes.. Let's stop legal aid abuses across the board, from lawyers to criminals ripping off the system. Let's put an end to lenient sentences by soft judges - the Crown must appeal when judges get it wrong.

ACT put into law mandatory thirteen year minimum sentences for home invasion where murder is committed. ACT supports Brian Neeson's degrees of murder Bill to massively increase the penalties for first degree murder.

Our policy is also to increase the penalty for intimidating witnesses to the same penalty as the crime being prosecuted.

Law and Order has become a key issue in this election.

Labour, the Alliance and the Greens have come out against Truth in Sentencing. Labour says we can't afford to keep violent criminals in jail.

Labour says to the Lawton family - a Labour Government will let out the gang member who threatened you after he has served just two years of his sentence because Labour says they can't afford to protect your family. ACT says we can't afford not to keep violent criminals in jail.

In Australia, where judges hand down tougher sentences and where the politicians do not let violent criminals out of jail early, the crime rate is lower and re-convictions of released criminals are just 37%. Here in New Zealand 80% of those released from jail are reconvicted within two years.

Most crimes in this country are committed by a small group of dangerous recidivist criminals. Letting them out early on "home leave" has failed. Yes, ACT's policy does require more prisons, but it is a small price to pay for the Lawton's peace.

Labour has enough money for ten new Ministries and 160 new spending proposals but they say they can't afford to find the money to maintain law and order. Political parties that will not accept their responsibility to protect the lives and property of our citizens do not have the right to be our Government.

ACT has made Truth in Sentencing a bottom line coalition policy. I promise the people of Invercargill that if ACT is part of a new Government next week our first job will be to make my Truth in Sentencing Bill that's currently before a Parliamentary Select Committee, a Government Bill. It will be one of the first new laws passed.

In passing Truth in Sentencing ACT will be sending a message to all law breakers that there is a new Government, that there is a new respect for the rule of law and in future the priority will be the rights of the victim not the criminal. In future people will be held to account for their actions - personal responsibility will be at the heart of a new Government that ACT is a part of. That Government will be committed to the rule of law. ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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