It was particularly telling that both Justice Minister Simon Power and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson failed to front to speak for the 3 strikes Bill when its second reading was debated last night.
But ahead of that debate, Labour’s Rick Barker took Judith Collins to task:
Hon Rick Barker: Has she read the official advice that National/ACT’s ‘three strikes’ policy is unlikely to have a deterrent effect and will result in fewer guilty pleas, more appeals against convictions and sentences, and possibly an increased rate of homicide; if so, why is the Government proceeding with a policy that will not prevent crime, may lead to increased violent crime, and clearly will make things worse for victims?
Serious questions, very serious. What kind of crime bill doesn’t reduce crime and might cause more murders? These questions deserve a serious answer. We didn’t get it:
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: We have received an awful lot of advice, and some of it the Labour Party would enjoy because of the soft approach it takes to criminals. However, I believe that it is very important to note that we received some very good advice on this issue, particularly from victims and their families. I remind that member that most offenders get a set period of sentence but, unfortunately, all victims get a life sentence every time.
Pathetic. She doesn’t even have the courage to address the fact that the law may increase murders.
And then, this:
Rahui Katene: Is she concerned about claims from Peter Williams QC that the ‘three strikes’ policy is ‘hysterical’ legalisation, that taking away parole means that there is no deterrent for crime and there is also no incentive for people to rehabilitate, and is this a direction she thinks the police should be promoting?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No. Mr Williams has spent a lifetime defending the worst repeat violent offenders in this country.
What disgraceful behaviour from that minister in her final response. Every person accused of a crime has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to a defence. Yet here is a minister of the Crown (a lawyer to boot) attacking a man who has spent decades in the public service making sure that people get the defence that is their right.
I actually salute people like Peter Williams who have the guts to take on a role that means being associated in the public eye with some truly nasty characters because it is the right thing to do and in a just society someone has to do it.
But that’s a relatively small thing. The real issue is that this is a crime bill that is not expected to deter or reduce crime and may increase murders. That’s not acceptable. It’s not even really a crime bill, it’s a stupid PR stunt that puts lives at risk. No responsible government would pass it.
But this is not a responsible government. It is a government that has overseen a dramatic increase in crime. It is a government that is willing to cause more murders for the sake of appearing tough on crime.