UPDATED: Crime and Justice: National, Act and NZ First policies under the microscope

As this is election year Whaleoil wants to look at the key policies of all the parties one by one. Recently we asked three questions about Immigration and the Refugee quota. Five parties responded and we used the remaining parties’ policy information on their websites to fill in the blanks.

This time we will compare the Crime and Justice policies of three potential coalition partners, National, Act and New Zealand First.

National Party

Track record:

  • Around 60,000 fewer crimes are being committed a year compared to five years ago.
  • Lowest crime rate since 1978.
  • Passed new laws against cyber bullying and is doing more to help support victims of crime.

Summary of key points:

National’s crime focus is on family violence.

They have announced sweeping changes to the system to better support victims and keep them safe.

This includes making it easier to get a protection order, maximising the opportunities of Police safety orders, and making property orders more effective.

They are taking action earlier to change perpetrator behaviour such as connecting perpetrators with the help they need to stop the abuse. They are also creating new offences for prosecuting violence.

We’re rolling out a new approach to better identify risk and recognise the patterns of family violence.

We need to do better to combat family violence. Our overhaul of our family violence laws is a critical, foundational step so that a new approach can be built.

National is working hard to play our part in breaking the cycle of violence within families and across generations.


Act Party

Track record:

The 2010 “three-strikes legislation”, which gives people who commit violent offences “strikes” when they plead or are found guilty. One person so far has been sentenced for a third strike but the Judge chose not to sentence him to the maximum seven years without parole as he felt that would be manifestly unjust.

A first strike serves as a warning, and a second strike requires an offender to serve their sentence without parole.

Someone who gets a third strike must serve the maximum sentence possible without parole, unless the court considers it would be manifestly unjust.

-Stuff

Summary of key points:

  • Protecting people and property is the first and most important job of the state.

  • Supports rehabilitation and compassion for those who have done wrong, and supports improving efforts in these areas

  • The primary responsibility of the state is to put innocent victims first. Favours tough and principled sentencing that is a proportionate deterrent to the crimes it focuses on.

  • Recommends revising the sentencing laws.

Preventing burglary should be a priority for the state…

  • Burglary is the crime that New Zealanders are most affected by, both in perception and in reality.  ACT advocates the British approach of a three strikes law for this crime….This will reduce the rate of burglary by deterring people from committing the crime and by incapacitating burglars who are not deterred by holding them in prison…Unlike the violent crime regime, where a third strike earns the maximum sentence for the crime without parole, a third strike for burglary will earn a minimum three year prison sentence with no parole (the unused maximum already being 10 years).
  • The reparation scheme has become dysfunctional in New Zealand and ACT advocates lump sum payments to victims by the state, which should then take responsibility for collection rather than letting victims suffer from non-payment.
  • Murder is not currently sentenced by degree, leading to injustices when one sentencing regime is applied to varying circumstances.  ACT believes that there should be a degrees-of-murder sentencing regime.
  • Livestock theft is the rural counterpart to urban burglary and is not dealt with in proportion to the hardship it creates.  ACT supports tougher sentences as well as confiscation of weapons and vehicles used for livestock theft, in line with sanctions applied to fish poachers.

**NOTE: Today I am at The Act Party conference where at 2pm David Seymour’s speech will include an announcement on a law and order, and corrections policy. I will update this article with the details later today.

UPDATE: I will write in more detail in another post but today’s announcement is the carrot to Act’s stick of their three strikes legislation. Act wants to be smart not just hard and they want to reward self-improvement in prison as low levels of literacy and numeracy is resulting in offenders re-offending. The key point of the proposal is the huge savings to the taxpayer when prisoners do not return to prison.


New Zealand First Party

Track record:

*I am unaware of any success in this area. I will update this section if information is provided.

Summary of key points:

Access to justice 

…the legal system, and the costs of using the system must be reduced where feasible, including:

  • More use of alternative disputes resolution processes, especially mediation and arbitration as a right.
  • Providing litigants with better means of avoiding delays…
  • Providing litigants with improved means of reviewing the fees charged..
  • Human Rights 

Instruct the Law Commission together with the Human Rights Commission to urgently review the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to broaden its cover.

Efficiency in the court system

  • Accelerate the streamlining of courts systems… reducing delays and costs.
  • Review of the Disputes Tribunal to improve its performance…
  • A review of the jurisdiction of the District Court.
  • Much greater use of on-line documents must be achieved, using secure and trackable systems.
  • Greater use of technology to reduce the amount of court hearing time.

 

An inmate of Wellington prison watches the New Zealand vs Australia 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final game in his cell.

Reduce the prison population

Prisons will always be necessary for people convicted of serious crime; however New Zealand First supports greater use of alternatives where feasible. These will include:

  • Wider use of home detention…
  • A greater range of non-custodial sentences such as the confiscation of specific property, larger and long term reparation payments and fines.
  • Short, sharp custodial sentences…

Ensure that the legal aid system works fairly

…New Zealand First would reintroduce the right of accused persons to choose publicly funded private defenders for all cases of serious crime.

The best means of reducing costs is to streamline the process to determine who should receive legal aid and the quantum of it…

The future of family courts and their operation

  • Ensure that adequate counselling is made available, including state funding for parties not reasonably able to pay for their own, so that only those cases which have clearly developed into a dispute need to go to mediation or a court.
  • Where matters require decisions of the Court the parties must have access to expert advice and representation. Legal aid will be available to all parties who are eligible under income/capital thresholds.
  • A lawyer must always be appointed for the child or children, except only those cases where the judge assesses that representation is unnecessary.

Sentencing 

New Zealand First will:

  • Ensure an accused can be re-tried for a crime where it is proved that an acquittal, or a change to a lesser offence, has resulted from intimidation perjury or the bribery of a victim, witness or juror.
  • Remove concurrent sentences for those guilty of rape and for those who commit offences while on parole, on bail, or whilst in custody;
  • Strengthen monitoring requirements in relation to community-based sentences.
  • Review the adequacy of maximum sentences for serious criminal offences.
  • Investigate the implementation of degrees of murder sentencing regime.
  • Increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders.
  • Require that upon conviction of a serious and/or violent crime non-citizens will be repatriated to the offender’s country of origin where possible.

Victims’ rights and restorative justice

New Zealand First will:

  • Establish a group within the Ministry of Justice to oversee the effective co-ordination, funding and delivery of victim support services.
  • Ensure that victim support groups receive adequate funding…

Youth Justice

New Zealand First believes that the priority for reducing youth crime is ensuring all young people are engaged in full time employment.

New Zealand First will:

  • Require greater parental responsibility for young offenders.
  • Ensure that young recidivist offenders are dealt with by an expanded and reconstituted Youth Court with improved guidelines.
  • Retain Family Group Conferences (FGC) for under 12 years offenders, but any such offender will be dealt with under this provision only three times, and thereafter will be dealt with by the adult criminal courts.
  • Provide police with the powers and resources to address truant behaviour.
  • Introduce stricter controls on the ratings of, and restrictions to the access to violent or sexually explicit videos.
  • Raise the alcohol purchase age to 20 years.

 

 


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