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Sentencing And Parole Bill: First Reading - Robson

14 August 2001 Hon Matt Robson Speech Notes

Sentencing And Parole Bill: First Reading

In the first few weeks of this government, National and Act were new to opposition.

They saw fit to accuse me of planning to let violent thugs out of prison with a cup of warm milk and a cuddle.

Shame on them.

It was irresponsible of National and Act to create a sense of fear amongst New Zealanders, that this government would let out all the worst offenders.

Because nothing could be further from the truth.

How ironic.

Because we are now introducing legislation that should have been introduced years ago by the former government.

We're tidying up the mess left behind after a decade of law and order rhetoric and little action.

This Bill proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I want to see the dangerous few locked up for longer wherever public safety is a concern.

The Alliance and Labour are united in this.

ABOUT TIME

We are also united in the need to intervene early to prevent a new generation of criminals growing up to create a new generation of victims.

The Sentencing and Parole Bill will earn the trust of the New Zealand public.

The most dangerous offenders will stay in jail longer.

Only when we have earned that trust can we hope to have the support of the public for new early intervention initiatives.

- Initiatives aimed at that five year old child that Ces Lashlie spoke about.

The About Time report which I released recently shows that young people who are likely to become adult offenders can now be identified with increasing certainty –

- as newborns, school entrants and young offenders.

The About Time report and the Sentencing and Parole Bill are a package deal for Corrections.

MONEY

As Minister of Corrections I had two key concerns with this Bill. One was money. The other was parole.

This Bill will see an increase in the prison muster of about 300 inmates after four years on a daily muster.

That will cost us about an extra $90m.

We need more cells to keep people in prison for longer.

That's partly why I have to build four new prisons (seven if you count the three new prisons in East Timor!)

National of course have seen fit to oppose the building of new prisons.

What an earth do they propose as an alternative?

I wanted to ensure that the extra money required to implement this Bill did not compromise any other crime prevention initiatives in the prison system.

It has not. Extra money has been allocated.

PAROLE

As Minister I need to be able to reassure the public that the safeguards are in place when an offender is released.

We have had too many examples recently of violent offenders released at two-thirds of their sentence, and then re-offending while on parole.

Parole Boards have felt frustrated at not having the tools to keep an offender in prison for longer if there is an obvious risk that they will re-offend.

Probation officers have too often been in the firing line when an offender in their care re-offends.

And yet past governments have failed to give probation officers the tools to take action if they have fears for the safety of the public.

This Bill changes that – and not before time.

Some recent tragedies could have been averted if these tools had been in place.

A new single New Zealand Parole Board will replace the current Parole Board and 17 District Prisons Boards.

Most importantly, it will now be able to make community safety its paramount consideration.

If there is any concern, an offender will be kept inside.

Parole is a very useful tool in monitoring offenders released from jail.

This Bill tightens the controls we already have and introduces some new ones.

From now on, if an offender breaches the conditions of his/her parole, a Probation officer will be able to put in an application for re-call to prison to the Parole Board.

The Parole Board will then be able to issue a warrant for arrest immediately.

In the meantime if a court finds that the conditions of parole have indeed been breached, the courts will have the right to sentence the offender to another year in prison – instead of the present three months.

The majority of people in prison are there for property offences, traffic offences and drug related crimes.

We can turn many of these away from a life of crime after they are released.

But for the dangerous few who remain a danger to the community, we will now have the tools to keep them inside for as long as it takes to make them safe.

Ends

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