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New Act for Returning Offenders Breaches Rights

20 November 2015

New Act for Returning Offenders Breaches Rights

JustSpeak is concerned that the newly enacted legislation which creates parole-like conditions for New Zealanders who served prison sentences overseas is unfair and breaches fundamental rights protected by the Bill of Rights Act. The legislation leads to double jeopardy through the arbitrary enforcement of harsher and longer punishment than if the conduct had been committed in New Zealand.

“The Act creates parole-like conditions for all ‘Return Offenders’. New Zealanders returning home after completing sentences overseas will be monitored by Corrections in a way that ordinarily only offenders who had not yet completed their sentence would be subjected to.” says JustSpeak spokesperson Hannah Gabriel “For example if a person was convicted for 6 years in Australia, served 4 years and was on parole for the final 2 and then was deported to NZ after their parole had ended, they would be contacted by Corrections on their arrival and be given parole conditions for another 2 years. People are effectively being forced to serve an extra half sentence.”

“The NZ Bill of Rights guards against double jeopardy (being punished for the same crime twice) but that is exactly what is happening here. People who have already done their time will be given extra punishment in the name of community safety. The speed with which this legislation passed meant that there has been no opportunity to examine whether community safety was at risk in the first place, or whether the community will be any safer now.”

“Another unjust effect is that the legislation does not allow for differences in sentencing for similar offences - if a person served over a year in prison for something that would be an imprisonable offence in New Zealand, then the conditions will apply. This will lead to perverse outcomes. For example, if a New Zealander is charged with possession of cannabis in Indonesia and spends 4 years in prison, a further compulsory 2 years of parole-like conditions would apply on their return. This is a total of 6 years punishment for an offence that would only result in a maximum of 6 months of prison if it had occurred in New Zealand. This attitude condones and adds to the arbitrary punishment of New Zealanders.”


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