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Legal Experts Show Why “Three Strikes” is Unjust

Legal Experts Show Why “Three Strikes” is Unjust

“New Zealand is in danger of seeing a criminal justice policy implemented that is simply unjust, because of a poor process and a lack of sound discussion,” says Professor Warren Brookbanks.

Tonight at 5:30pm, Professor Brookbanks and Dr Richard Ekins will deliver a public lecture in Wellington, hosted by Maxim Institute and the Institute of Policy Studies. They will outline the three strikes law and its potential to create serious distortions in sentencing practice in New Zealand.

“The argument for the Bill is incapacitation, public/victim confidence and deterrence. The deterrence argument fails; the incapacitation argument is misconceived and there are serious negative consequences to this Bill which have not been addressed,” says Brookbanks. “All of this will only undermine public and victims’ confidence in the justice system.”

Ekins argues, “one of the big myths around ‘three strikes’ is that on a third strike, Judges will have discretion and take into account extenuating circumstances for the cases where someone really doesn’t deserve the maximum sentence. But a judge will only have limited discretion to allow eligibility for parole if it would be ‘manifestly unjust’ not to do so. The judge will have no discretion at all to decide not to impose the maximum sentence for that offence,” says Ekins. “While the maximum will be appropriate in some cases, it won’t be in every situation.”

“Judges are given the task of weighing the evidence in every case and dealing out sentences as appropriate. Three strikes has the potential to completely undermine this role by taking away their ability to use their judgement and to respond to all the facts of each particular case,” according to Brookbanks.

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“We agree that there is far too much serious crime in New Zealand and that there are good reasons to look carefully at how our criminal justice system functions,” says Ekins. “Retribution is at the heart of criminal justice. However the proposed legislation is not the right way forward. Instead we should be considering things like reforming parole eligibility and making punishment more speedy and efficient.”

In their lecture, Ekins and Brookbanks will critique the “three strikes” policy that Parliament is considering. They will explain the problems with the policy and discuss other ways we could improve sentencing in New Zealand.


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