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escalating violence in our community
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Sensible Sentencing Trust
(Date : March 2007)
1.1 Submission from the Sensible Sentencing Trust
1.2 We request to be heard in support of this submission.
1.3 The address for correspondence is :
The Sensible Sentencing Trust
P O Box 701
Phone: (06) 8355521
or Mobile 027 2487919
1.4 Reasons for our submission:
The Sensible Sentencing Trust is a victims advocacy organisation and as such have become aware of traumatic consequences crime and in particular violent crime has on these victims. We firmly believe that the escalation in violent crime is in a large part attributable to the adoption of liberal Criminal Justice polices, it is only through various Acts of Parliament that
2.1: In the introduction it states “The purpose of the Bill is to introduce a range of measures to arrest the sharp increase in the prison population in recent years.”
If that is the fundamental purpose of the Bill then from the outset it has been designed to fail, the prison population only reflects the level of crime, New Zealand has become a very criminal country. We have 100 crimes each year for every 1000 citizens compared to 90 in England, 24 in Spain and 20 in Ireland.
As a percentage of crimes committed we actually lock up very few people, currently we have 18 prisoners per 1000 crimes compared to 13 in England, 33 in Ireland and 48 in Spain. [Jamie Whyte Author, Crimes Against Logic]
High rates of imprisonment correlate directly with lowering the crime rate, at the present time there is no other proven method of keeping the community safe.
The purpose of the Bill should be to arrest the sharp increase in violent crime over recent years. We believe the following recommendations are essential for public safety and confidence.
2.2: While the Bill talks about “Truth in Sentencing” a closer examination exposes a blatant lie and a play on words which appear to be a deliberate attempt by the authors to mislead the public once again.
Over recent years the public’s confidence in our Justice System has been badly eroded, it is imperative that this confidence is restored.
2.3: Sensible Sentencing Trust recommendations :
Part 1 of the Bill: Sentencing Council :
We believe the Sentencing Council is a positive step forward providing it is not a political puppet.
Part 2 of the Bill: amendments relating to criminal justice :
Subpart 1 ----Amendments to Bail Act 2000 :
Violent offenders and / or repeat offenders must not be eligible for Bail.
Re-offending on Bail has increased significantly over recent years with the loss of life in many occasions.
Subpart 2 ----Amendments to the Sentencing Act 2002 :
Community detention or home detention must not be available for violent offenders and / or repeat offenders.
Subpart 3 --- Amendments to the Parole Act 2002 :
While we agree with the proposal to increase the time served before being eligible for parole to 2/3 we are totally opposed to any violent or repeat offenders being eligible for parole at all.
Subpart 4 --- Amendments to the Prisoners and Victims Claims Act 2005 :
The present chaos surrounding compensation to inmates is a travesty of justice itself. The normal Court process should be available to inmates to address any issues surrounding a breach of their “rights”.
A sensible path to reducing the number of victims and level of imprisonment and crime in New Zealand: :
An end to New Zealand’s rights based offender centered legal system that takes any concept of responsibility and accountability away from offenders.
Introduction of a responsibility based, victim centered justice system that focuses on placing the responsibility on the offender from the first crime.
Introduction of a user-pays scheme in prisons where-as all offenders are required to work for their keep and learn skills for their eventual reintegration. If we are to have a truly effective criminal justice system it is essential that the victims are given priority consideration.
To achieve the above we believe implementation of the following is essential:
When we first discussed the Bill on 12 February you asked for my thoughts on Clause 96 of the Bill which will allow victims to present oral submissions to the Board if the victim can assist in relation to an undue risk to the safety of the community or on ways of managing those risks. In its report the Law Commission said:
“At present, sections 29 and 47 of the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 provide that victims may participate in the process for making decisions about home detention and parole if the offending involved sexual violation, serious injury, or death. Sections 47(1) and 49(4) of the Parole Act 2002 provide that where the Board elects to conduct an attended hearing, every victim of the offender is entitled to appear and make oral submissions, and where the Board elects to conduct an unattended hearing, every victim must be given the opportunity to have a prior interview with a member of the panel. Victims can be expected to have a sense of grievance if these opportunities are removed from them.
The Parole Board should continue to receive written submissions from all victims. However, it should have a discretion about whether to hear them in person, and should do so only if the written submissions indicate that the victim may be able to contribute to a risk-focused discussion about whether the prisoner should be released and, if so, how that person should be managed. It should be noted that the Parole Act 2002 went significantly further than the Victims’ Rights Act 2002, in the entitlements that it conferred on victims, and would do so even if it was amended in this way. It is arguably a reasonable quid pro quo that prisoners will serve most of the sentence imposed, but victims will have a somewhat more focused task in relation to their participation in release decisions.”
I can see the point being made by the Law Commission but at the same time I can imagine that for some victims putting in a written submission and not being asked to speak to that decision and then the offender is granted parole will cause them angst. I’m suggesting to the Commissioners that in our submission we should invite the Select Committee to obtain more information about what would be the consequences of allowing those victims who wish to address the Board being allowed to. In other words the Select Committee should clearly identify the benefit of the change and satisfy themselves it is greater than the cost. Whether the Commissioners accept my suggestion is not yet decided.
The other Clause in the Bill you were keen for me to look at is Clause 137 which would insert a new section 109B into the Parole Act. The effect of s. 109B would be that the parole guidelines will apply to the release of an offender whether or not the guideline was in place when the sentence was imposed. The Crown Law Office advised the Attorney-General that:
“Applying the conclusion of the majority of the Supreme Court in Morgan, [decided in 2005] the retrospective nature of the sentencing and parole guidelines and the changes to the parole regime do not breach s 25(g) of the NZBORA because the provisions do not change the maximum penalty able to be imposed for any offence.”
Other submissions were made as follows;
From Peter Jenkins