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PM Talks About Crime With Sensible Sentencing

Rt Hon John Key

Speech to Sensible Sentencing Trust Conference
Banquet Hall, Parliament

I’d like to begin by saying thank you for inviting me to speak with you today

I know many of you are victims of crime - and for you, coming here is not an easy thing to do.

You are all courageous advocates for victims of crime and the effort you are making is welcomed.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust and its members make a real contribution to public debate and policy in New Zealand, and it’s a pleasure for me to be here with you today.

When National came into Government in late 2008 we were elected to get our economy growing faster, to lift education standards, and to make our communities safer.

I have been clear that law and order policy is a crucial part of my overall vision for New Zealand, because I believe Kiwis have a right to feel safer.

I have also been clear that where there is a balancing of rights to be done between criminals and victims, I will take a side.

That is the side of the victim. And where New Zealanders become victims of crime, I want the National-led Government to make sure they get the support and respect they deserve.

We have been relentlessly focused on these issues since we came into Government, and we have a record to prove that.

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk with you about what we have done and where we are moving to as we look to improve the security of New Zealanders.

You’ll be aware that we’ve passed into law a three strikes policy with the help of the Act Party.

It will keep the country’s worst repeat violent offenders in prison, because strike three means the offender gets the maximum penalty with no parole.

New Zealanders deserve to know that the worst violent offenders are not walking alongside them in their communities, so I’m proud that the three strikes law is in place.

And I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of Police and Corrections Minister Judith Collins in bringing that policy to reality.

We’ve also made a number of other changes that you will be interested in.

We moved quickly after being elected to strengthen bail laws, reversing Labour’s dangerous mistake.

We have toughened sentences for crimes against children.

We’ve given Police the power to collect DNA from people who they intend to charge with particular offences, and we’ve widened that range of offences.

This change comes into effect in the next couple of weeks and it gives the Police another tool to help solve crimes and bring to justice those who are responsible for damaging our communities.

We’ve also closed loopholes for child sex offenders.

We’ve given Police stronger powers to detect, trace and seize the profits of organised crime.

I can tell you today that the estimated value of restrained property so far under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act is more than $20 million.

That represents millions of dollars that criminals would have had as a reward for their crimes – these are profits we intend to take away from them.

We’ve given Police the opportunity to issue on-the-spot safety orders for victims of domestic violence.

I’m particularly proud of this law change because it’s important New Zealanders can feel safe in their own homes.

As I said earlier, the National-led Government is very much focused on the victims of crime.

Justice Minister Simon Power has been working hard to put victims at the front of our law and order agenda, and he’s made a raft of changes to help those who suffer at the hands of criminals.

We have introduced a $50 levy on criminals to improve services for victims.

We’re providing more financial support for victims, including helping them attend coronial inquests and Parole Board hearings.

We have also abolished the partial defence of provocation.

This particular change makes the court experience less traumatic for victims and removes a defence that effectively rewarded a loss of self-control.

I’d like to acknowledge the work of Simon Power in bringing forward all these changes – he has a huge capacity for work and Simon is doing a great job in putting victims first.

When we were elected to Government one of our commitments to New Zealanders was to put more Police on the streets to fight crime.

I’m proud to say we are delivering on that promise.

We promised to increase Police officer numbers nationwide by 600 before December next year, including 300 in Counties-Manukau.

To date, there are 413 more Police officers on the street and we are on target to reach the full 600 by the end of next year.

We’ve already got 271 out of 300 new Police officers in the Counties-Manukau district, and the rest have been recruited and are in training.

The boost in Police numbers is making a difference too.

The Police in Counties-Manukau can be far more proactive because there are far more of them.

For example, robberies in that district are down 52 per cent.

House burglaries are down 31 per cent.

And there’s been a 34 per cent drop in stolen vehicles.

That’s good news and I believe more is possible as the extra Police we are deploying really make their presence felt on our streets.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no getting away from the fact that New Zealand locks up a lot of offenders.

I checked earlier this week to see just how many.

I can tell you that on Monday this week, my advice is that there were 8829 offenders in prisons or Police cells.

That is the highest number ever.

I agree with you that bad people, particularly the most serious and repeat offenders, need to be taken out of our communities.

That’s why my Government has taken the actions it has during our time in office to do just that.

But it’s important to remember, as you know better than anyone else, that every person locked up in prison leaves behind a victim and their family.

These victims and their families aren’t statistics - they are real people, and very often they have lost a loved one.

So just as the Government is focused on taking the worst offenders out of circulation, we must also turn our attention to reducing the number of people who are likely to commit crime.

Because it stands to reason that every person who we prevent from embarking on a life of crime is also a person who will not leave behind a trail of victims.

In 2009, under the leadership of Simon Power, my Government convened a summit on the Drivers Of Crime. Slowly but surely, we have been working to address some of the very real catalysts that cause people to commit crime.

High on this list is drugs and alcohol.

That’s why I declared war on P through a multi-pronged approach to fight this evil drug in October last year.

We all know that P is hugely damaging to those who take it and the people who share their lives.

It comes hand in hand with violence. It allows gangs and organised crime to flourish. And it entices young people into criminal careers.

We are committed to using every tool we have to fight P.

The changes we have made include cracking down on precursors, breaking supply chains, providing better routes into treatment and supporting families and communities.

And we are making good progress.

In the first six months of this year, Customs seized a total of 630 kilograms of methamphetamine, or P precursor, at the border.

That would produce up to 178 kilograms of P - with a street value of around $178 million.

The Police and Customs have been doing a great job and their efforts have been out there for you to see in the form of multiple arrests and record drug busts.

This was evidenced by the seizure by Customs in May of just over eight kilograms of pure P in the luggage of a tour group arriving at Auckland Airport.

There was also the seizure of more than $5 million worth of methamphetamine and the arrest of six people by Police in Auckland last month after a year-long drugs operation.

We are determined to bring those who peddle P to justice.

And as we do it, we are disrupting and undermining P-related criminal activity.

Our War on P has some way to go yet. But we are determined, we are committed, and we are already achieving progress.

Alcohol, too, is a significant driver of crime.

It is implicated in 30 per cent of all police recorded offences, 34 per cent of recorded family violence, and 50 per cent of all homicides.

The public has been calling for change, and this week we responded to those calls with a comprehensive alcohol law reform package.

We are focused on minimising alcohol-related harm, particularly among young people.

The measures we have announced are an acknowledgement that the pendulum had swung too far towards liberalisation of alcohol laws.

But we also know there are a lot of responsible drinkers in New Zealand and we don’t want to unduly affect them.

So we have been careful to get the balance of our alcohol reform package right.

I’d like to run through a handful of the measures with you now. As you may know we have adopted in full, or in part, as many as 126 of the Law Commission’s 153 recommendations for alcohol reform.

Among them, we have decided to empower communities to decide on the concentration, location and hours of alcohol outlets for both on and off-licences in their area.

We have listened to the calls from people who wanted a greater say in the way alcohol is sold in their local community, and we are giving them that say

We are also putting forward a split alcohol purchase age of 18 for on-license venues and 20 for off-license venues.

The National caucus will have a conscience vote on this particular part of the alcohol reforms. The split age reflects the different levels of supervision that apply to on-license and off-license venues.

We are also going to restrict RTDs to 5 per cent alcohol content, and no more than 1.5 standards drinks per container.

I think you will all be aware that RTDs are particularly appealing to young people. In some cases they don’t taste like alcohol but they can have substantial levels of alcohol in them.

The National-led Government’s overall alcohol reform package zeroes in on where harm is happening – particularly around youth.

The RTD changes are part of that focus.

We’re also giving parents more tools to manage their children’s access to alcohol and requiring more parental and individual responsibility for supply to minors.

We’re tightening the criteria for licence applications too.

And we’re increasing penalties for a range of licence breaches, including selling to a minor, serving an intoxicated person, and allowing violent behaviour to take place on premises.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is just a start for alcohol reform.

We know that legislation alone will not turn our binge-drinking culture around and eliminate harm.

Our binge-drinking culture is a function of something we’ve grown up with and each and every one of us can change that if we want to. The law can only go so far.

As well as reforming alcohol laws and tackling P, the National-led Government is working hard to help young people and young offenders, and to turn them off a life of crime.

Today I want to talk about three of our initiatives aimed at young people – Fresh Start, Limited Service Volunteers, and National Standards.

Fresh Start is a revolutionary range of programmes designed to
give young offenders what they need to make a fresh start.

It’s about intervening early to divert these young people from a life of crime.

Fresh Start legislation has been passed into law this year and it starts on October 1.

You’re probably familiar with some of the aspects of Fresh Start – such as military-style activity camps for the most serious repeat young offenders.

These camps will teach self-discipline, respect and responsibility, and there will be mentoring, parenting and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes wrapped around it to address the causes of offending.

There are many other aspects to the package which better equip judges with the tools they need to deter young offenders from a life of crime.

With the investment we are making in Fresh Start, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of young offenders.

We’re also expanding the highly successful Limited Service Volunteer programme for 17- to 24-year-olds.

The programme is a six-week military-style camp, supported by life skills courses.

When I visited the Burnham LSV programme last year, I sat down and chatted with a couple of young men who were about to finish the programme.

I asked them how they felt about leaving. They said that it was going to be the saddest day of their lives.

I asked why, and they said because LSV was the first time they had really had family around them, a sense of boundaries, and a sense of purpose.

The feedback that the Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and I are getting about the LSV programme is fantastic.

Many graduates go on to further study, to get a job, or to join the armed forces. They leave instilled with self-discipline, confidence, and motivation.

And finally, I also want to talk today about National Standards.

This is a crucial part of our plan to help children get the skills they need to succeed and reach their full potential.

National Standards will identify the kids in our schools who are falling behind so that parents and teachers can give them the support they need to catch up

I’d like to read from an email sent to Education Minister Anne Tolley, about our National Standards.

It reads: “I think it is a brilliant idea. I worked as a Probation Officer for 12 years and was appalled at the number of offenders who couldn’t read or write. Hopefully National Standards will go some way towards addressing that.”

I couldn’t agree more, Ladies and Gentlemen.

This National-led Government is committed to addressing the problem of crime in this country.

We have a plan to make our communities safer and our initiatives so far have had a great response.

We are putting victims first, getting tough on criminals, and addressing the drivers of crime.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has a vital role in advocating victims’ rights and promoting a safer New Zealand.

I have enjoyed the close relationship we’ve had for several years now, and I look forward to it continuing in the years ahead.

Thank you and I wish you a successful conference.

ends

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