Saturday, July 13, 2024

Govt commits to sentencing reforms

Justice Minister, Paul Goldsmith says the Government is committed to reforming sentencing to ensure criminals face serious consequences for crime and victims are prioritised.

“In recent years, there has been a concerning trend where the courts have imposed fewer and shorter prison sentences despite a 33% increase in violent crime,” said Mr Goldsmith.

“Public confidence in the ability of our sentencing system to deter and denounce offending has diminished.

“This Government is committed to restoring law and order in New Zealand and that means ensuring that offenders face serious consequences for their criminal actions.

“The changes we are making send a strong message that victims are the priority of this Government rather than offenders.”

The upcoming reforms will strengthen the criminal justice system by:

  • Capping the sentence discounts that judges can apply at 40 per cent when considering mitigating factors unless it would result in manifestly unjust sentencing outcomes.
  • Preventing repeat discounts for youth and remorse. Lenient sentences are failing to deter offenders who continue to rely on their youth or expressions of remorse without making serious efforts to reform their behaviour.
  • Responding to serious retail crime by introducing a new aggravating factor to address offences against sole charge workers and those whose home and business are interconnected, as committed to in the National-Act coalition agreement. 
  • Encouraging the use of cumulative sentencing for offences committed while on bail, in custody, or on parole to denounce behaviour that indicates a disregard for the criminal justice system, as committed to in the National-New Zealand First coalition agreement. 
  • Implementing a sliding scale for early guilty pleas with a maximum sentence discount of 25 per cent, reducing to a maximum of 5 per cent for a guilty plea entered during the trial. This will prevent undue discounts for late-stage guilty pleas and avoid unnecessary trials that are costly and stressful for victims.
  • Amending the principles of sentencing to include requirement to take into account any information provided to the court about victims’ interests, committed to in both coalition agreements.  

“These reforms clearly signal an expectation that appropriate consequences are imposed, and the needs of victims are prioritised,” said the Minister.

“Judges will of course continue to have discretion to consider the individual circumstances of each case to ensure sentencing does not lead to manifestly unjust outcomes.”

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