National continued with its hard right let’s win back some support from Act announcements with a policy announcement that would make Attilla the Hun proud.
Cleary the party’s brains unit has sat down and worked on a policy that will achieve little in reality, apart from more people being in jail, but it has talking points that will get the venom going among its supporters.
Last weekend the Party announced that it was going to get tough on gangs by making gang membership an aggravating feature.
It displayed no embarrassment whatsoever that membership of an organised group was already an aggravating feature. The Sentencing Act 2002 already states the following:
In sentencing or otherwise dealing with an offender the court must take into account the following aggravating factors to the extent that they are applicable in the case: …
(hb) the nature and extent of any connection between the offending and the offender’s—
(i) participation in an organised criminal group (within the meaning of section 98A of the Crimes Act 1961); or
(ii) involvement in any other form of organised criminal association”.
The proposed policy slightly tweaks this by making membership of an organised criminal group or association an aggravating feature even if there was no connection to the offending. If enacted I am pretty sure the Supreme Court would have something to say about this and the right to freedom of association.
Luxon’s speech to the National Party conference yesterday included the following passage:
Sentences are a punishment, a deterrent, and they show the public that justice is being done.
Judges need discretion to account for the unique circumstances of each case. However, New Zealand sets no limits on how much a judge can reduce sentences. That means they often end up far lower than victims and the public expect, and far lower than is required to acknowledge the harm and suffering that’s been caused.
For example, a 60 per cent sentence reduction was given to a 19-year-old who, carrying a knife, kicked down the front door of a pregnant woman, assaulted her and kidnapped another person. The sentencing starting point was eight years and six months, but it was reduced to three years and five months.
That’s why I’m announcing today that National will impose a new limit on judges’ discretion.
They will be allowed to reduce a sentence by no more than 40 per cent. Any more than that undermines the purpose and impact of the sentence and undermines the public’s faith in the courts.
National also says that an offender will receive a reduced sentence for their youth, and for remorse, only once. You might be sorry the second time, and you might still be young, but if you’ve enjoyed a previous sentence reduction because of it, then that ship has sailed. It’s a reminder to learn from experience.
We’re also going to restore the Three Strikes policy for serious offenders.
This was brought in to ensure the worst repeat violent criminals faced appropriate sentences for continued offending.
Labour, in another of its soft messages to criminals, got rid of it. We will bring it back with clearer guidance on where judges can make exceptions – and where they can’t.
I make no apology for being tough on law and order. This Government obviously isn’t putting the public’s safety first, but a National government will.
We’re also going to end the practice of taxpayers paying for written cultural reports about offenders’ backgrounds in an effort to reduce sentences.
This used to be rare but this practice has morphed into a cottage industry that’s lowering sentences and taxpayers are footing the bill. There were eight taxpayer-funded reports in 2017, and more than 2400 last year.
National is going to unwind this growth. Offenders will still be able to ask the court to hear from someone who knows them, but taxpayers won’t be paying for that.
We’re going to take the money that would have been spent on reports for offenders and give it to victims instead.
There is a lot to unpick here. Curtailing Judges’ discretions in sentencing is straight out of the US Republican playbook. Judges cannot defend themselves against these sorts of attacks. Besides the sentencing starting points are set by the courts. It is strange they should be allowed complete discretion to work out the starting point but not the end point.
And Judges should be allowed to exercise mercy in appropriate cases. Sometimes the facts and the background are that spectacular that large amounts of mercy is justified.
When it was in force the three strikes law had some batshit crazy results. That National should seek to reinvigorate this heinous law for political gain speaks volumes about it. As I said earlier the legislation was a sports slogan masquerading as a serious penal policy. Its genesis was the US of A where an informed considered approach to criminal justice is subservient to good old boy tough on crime toting politicians.
Attacking Cultural Reports is thinly disguised dog whistle racism. The reports are incredibly helpful in understanding an offender’s background, particularly in cases involving Maori and Pasifeka. National clearly does not want any allowance made for them for the effects of colonialism. And at a cost of $6 million a year the cost is hardly excessive.
And rehabilitation of remand prisoners? Labour has already introduced a bill to achieve this. It appears that National was unaware that the bill had been introduced.
What was really surprising is that National has no idea how much this will cost, nor for that fact how much it costs to keep someone in jail.
Redundant policies? Costings? We'll have to take a look at it, but that's not any of your business. pic.twitter.com/XnMlrPRxdj
— Christopher Luxon ChatGPT (@rugbyintel) June 25, 2023
During the stand up Paul Goldsmith was asked how much it costs to incarcerate a person for a year and he ventured the figure of $100,000. The correct answer is twice that figure.
Former National leader Bill English used to refer to prisons being a moral and fiscal failure. National under Christopher Luxon clearly does not care and has forgotten how to count.