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Wayne Mapp: Law And Order Policies

Law And Order Policies

John Key announcement

This week John Key announced major elements of National’s law and order policies. The safety of our society, and freedom from crime is a huge concern to New Zealanders. They want to know that National has effective policies to deal with crime, and also with the causes of crime.

New police powers
The announcement largely deals with police powers, and in particular the tools to detect and apprehend criminals. There will be announcements in the future on sentencing and rehabilitation of offenders.

The fundamental role of the police is to apprehend and prosecute offenders. To do this, they need to have the right tools to know who is an offender.

DNA samples
The first fundamental tool that National will supply is the requirement that persons arrested for an imprisonable offence will have to give a DNA sample. This is already required of persons arrested for offences with prison terms of seven years or more. Currently, all people arrested have to provide their fingerprints and are photographed. DNA is simply the modern fingerprint. In the case of both DNA and fingerprinting, they are intended to provide certainty of identification. The record is only kept permanently if a person is convicted.

DNA only on arrest
The arrest power is actually a fundamental protection of citizens’ rights. People can only be arrested if they are charged with an offence. If they are charged with an offence, they have to be brought before a Court. In New Zealand, there is no such thing as arrest on suspicion, or detention for questioning.

Civil rights are protected
I was not surprised to hear civil liberties groups complaining, but their concerns seem to be based on the false premise that DNA would be able to be taken, even when a person was not charged, and even if the person was acquitted. Neither of those things is true. It can only be taken on arrest and must be destroyed if the person is acquitted.

Taser protection
National is also concerned to ensure police have the right tools to protect the public and themselves. We consider the taser trial has been effective, and that the use of tasers helps everyone; the public, the police, and in fact the offenders. Yes, it is painful, but it actually protects the lives of everyone involved.

Clamping down on gangs
National believes that the Police need better legislative backing to make criminal gangs a key target in the fight against crime. National will pass laws that remove the legitimacy, power and status of gangs. The key measures are:

1. The Crimes Act will be amended to ensure that membership of a criminal gang is a criminal offence in and of itself.
2. The Crimes Act will be amended to make it easier for police to conduct surveillance on and listen in on gang communications.
3. The Local Government Act will be amended to give the police increased power to remove and storm gang fortifications.
4. National will make sure that criminals with gang memberships are subject to harsher sentences than their non-gang counterparts. We will amend the Sentencing Act to make gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing.

The total package announced yesterday will ensure the police have the tools to fight crime. It is a fundamental right of people to live in a crime free society. These measures are an essential part of achieving that goal.


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