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Dunne opposes sentencing and parole bill

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Peter Dunne
Peter Dunne

Wellington, May 4 NZPA - UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne opposed the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill when it passed its second reading in Parliament today.

During its first reading, Mr Dunne voted for the bill, which incorporates three strikes policy negotiated between the National and ACT parties, but he described it today as "flawed legislation" which would "neither reduce the incidents of violent crime, assist in addressing the high rate of recidivism among offenders, nor help curb our bulging prison population".

If passed into law, someone committing a major violent or sexual offence would receive a standard sentence and warning for the first offence, generally a jail term with no parole and a further warning for a second offence, while on conviction for a third offence the person would receive the maximum penalty in prison for that offence with no parole. A judge would have certain discretions.

Mr Dunne said while serious violent offenders needed long sentences, the three strikes approach was too simplistic.

He said a comprehensive review of the way in which courts, juries and judges were allowed to deal with cases of violent crime was needed, "not the watered-down version of an expensive American-style corrections policy which has had at best questionable results in other jurisdictions."

"Three strikes is based on the notion that the justice system cannot adequately deal with serious violent offenders, which is why we need to address the problems within the justice system rather than just fob the problem off on to Corrections," Mr Dunne said.

The bill passed its reading today by a vote of 63-59.

Police Minister Judith Collins said the bill would ensure the worst repeat offenders stayed in prison for longer.

"This bill is specifically focused on those offenders who show no regard for victims, their families or the community, and who are repeatedly convicted for serious violent and sexual offending," she said.

"Parole is not a right for prisoners. It is a privilege. This privilege is earned, and should not be granted to those who demonstrate total disregard for the law by continuing to commit serious violent offences despite being warned of the consequences."

Ms Collins said that since the bill was introduced, changes had been made to ensure consistency in the definition of what constituted a serious violent offence. The changes included five further offences being added to the list of qualifying offences -- all of which carry maximum penalties of more than seven years in prison.

Only the High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court will be able to sentence an offender for a stage three offence.

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