Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Three strikes not out

Legislation to repeal the ‘Three Strikes’ law has passed its third reading in Parliament.

Justice Minister, Kiri Allan, says the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill ends an anomaly in New Zealand’s justice system that dictates what sentence judges must hand down irrespective of relevant factors.

“The three strikes law was a knee-jerk reaction to crime by the former National-ACT coalition government that resulted in disproportionate and excessive sentences, when compared to the seriousness of the offence and the harm caused,” said Ms Allan.

“There was no evidence that it worked. It failed to be a deterrent to offenders, it failed the tax-payer, and it failed victims, because it ensured they were in the system for longer.”

The three strikes law was introduced by the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010.

“In effect, it created a mandatory sentencing regime for certain serious offences (commonly referred to as strike offences).”

“The three strikes law removes the discretion of sentencing judges to consider the seriousness of the offending or the circumstances of the offending and the individual offender.

“The High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have found sentences imposed under the regime have breached the Bill of Rights Act,” said Minister Allan.

She said repealing the three strikes law will revert the sentencing process for strike offences to standard sentencing processes.

“Despite claims from the opposition, this does not mean people who commit serious and repeat offending will stop receiving severe sentences.”

“Judges still retain the powers to sentence people to lengthy periods of imprisonment and can impose the same restrictions as provided by the three strikes law in appropriate cases.”

These include:

  • preventive detention for repeat serious offenders,
  • public protection and extended supervision orders,
  • minimum periods of imprisonment, and
  • imposing maximum penalties, up to life imprisonment.

The Minister said the Justice Select Committee received a wide range of submitters including members of the public, legal practitioners, criminal justice advocacy groups, and strike offenders themselves.

“The Government has listened to those victims and victim advocacy groups who made submissions on the Bill.”

“Those who have committed strike offences prior to the repeal will not be able to have their sentences reconsidered, meaning the victims of these offenders will not be affected by the repeal,” said Ms Allan.

The repeal will take effect once the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill receives Royal assent.

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