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Garrett Open To Compromise On Three Strikes Bill

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
David Garrett
David Garrett

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, May 13 NZPA - ACT MP David Garrett has raised the idea of a compromise version of his three strikes for repeat offenders proposal.

Under the idea, offenders would have to serve the maximum sentence available for their third offence without parole.

"The maximum that can be imposed is the maximum penalty for the offence," he told NZPA.

Mr Garrett said he was being pragmatic as he needed National support for any proposal to advance.

The Government agreed to support the three strikes policy through its first reading as part of its support agreement with ACT.

Under the policy, offenders would be locked away for life for the third serious offence that carried a five year or longer sentence.

It was included in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which makes it more difficult for the worst violent offenders to get parole, and is before a select committee for consideration.

"We have to get the bill through select committee, the National Party made it clear... they have been honest, they were only supporting it to this level," he said.

"If we conclude we cannot get it through select committee as we would like... It's an option that's worth exploring.

"It's a possible compromise."

Justice Minister Simon Power said the Government was hearing submissions before the committee in good faith before making up its mind.

"We are continuing to discuss the matter with ACT," he told NZPA.

Mr Garrett asked several submitters who appeared before the law and order committee, including Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan, about the idea with positive reaction today.

"We would have another look at it," Ms Noonan said.

"We are talking about proportionality and here we say that our analysis is that it's out of proportion. What you've suggested is very different."

She said the bill breached the Bill of Rights Act and possibly the provisions of the international covenant on civil and political rights and the convention against torture.

There was no evidence measures in the bill would work and the new sentencing regime should be fully implemented before changes were sought.

"Our concern is the bill creates a sentencing regime which is disproportionate and inappropriate in that it provides for the imposition of a life sentence for offences that may otherwise be subjected to a penalty as little as five years."

The bill also included life sentences with a minimum non parole period of 25 years for offences that currently are subject to 10 years non-parole, and imposition of life sentences without parole for offences that normally have life with minimum 10 years non-parole.

Several submitters, including Ms Noonan, argued that resources would be better used in prevention and early childhood education.

Another proposal was that preventive detention be used more extensively which would leave decisions in judges' hands.

Ms Noonan said murder should be added to the schedule to avoid doubt, even though that crime carried a life sentence.

"We are concerned about the human rights implications of life without parole but that's not the same as saying is there's a regime which actually reviews situations and only releases people where there is certainty -- which in practice might amount to life without parole."

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