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The Criminal Bar Association Of New Zealand (CBANZ) Strongly Opposes The Proposed Return Of The Three Strikes Regime

The Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand (CBANZ) strongly opposes the proposed return of the three strikes regime. We repeat our call for criminal justice policy to be based on evidence, something the three strikes regime neglects to recognise – with no evidence that it either reduces crime or assists with rehabilitation.

  • New Zealand does not have a judiciary that is soft on crime: We already imprison people at a higher rate than Australia or UK (173 people per 100,000 in NZ, compared to 157 and 145, respectively); and at a much higher rate than Canada, Ireland or Northern Ireland (90, 91 & 98).
  • We already have preventive detention, which acts as a strong deterrent for those who present a high risk to the community due to violent or sexual offending; and which provides the judiciary with the necessary tools to denounce and deter criminal conduct.
  • It is fundamental to the principles of individualised justice that judges should be free to pass the appropriate sentence without interference from politicians.
  • The findings of a report commissioned by then Prime Minister Bill English, called out New Zealand’s rates of incarceration for being based on “dogma not evidence”, and criticised the move towards “a progressively retributive rather than a restorative approach to crime with unsupported claims that prisons can solve the problems of crime.” The CBANZ firmly agrees with the need to use evidence.
  • The three strikes regime:
  1. Is based on arbitrary rules relating to repeat offending and fails to take into account mental health, intellectual disability, youth and addiction.
  2. Fails to recognise that prisoners are unable to access rehabilitation programs until they reach parole eligibility.
  3. Ignores the reality that offenders often need help, not punishment, particularly where we are dealing with social justice issues like poverty, addiction, and mental health. These sentences therefore often ensure nothing more than release without rehabilitation.
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The CBA also notes that the cost of housing a prisoner is $193,000 a year. The government needs to consider how this will be funded, given the inevitable increase in cost when imposing longer sentences under the law.

As the representative association for criminal lawyers within New Zealand, The Criminal Bar Association would like to be involved in further discussions on this important issue.

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