National obviously desperately want to divert attention away from the Housing Corp methamphetamine fiasco. After five days of continuous bad news who can blame them. There is no upside for them. Either they were incompetent because they did not know what was happening, incompetent because they did know but did not stop it, or malevolent because they used it for political advantage.
Or all three. Like I said there is no upside for them.
And the Northcote by election is on and amazingly Labour has a chance. If National lose the seat Simon Bridges is in trouble.
So what does a right wing party do at a time it urgently needs to divert attention? That’s right, start bashing the law and order drum.
And what better way to attract attention than for a former lawyer to start using language to suggest he is willing to breach the Bill of Rights in order to deal with bad people.
National leader Simon Bridges says he will not only reinstate a three strikes regime if he gets into power but he will make sure old strike offences still count.
Responding to the Government’s proposed criminal justice reforms, Bridges also said he would build more prisons before he “softened” bail or sentencing laws.
Bridges, a former Crown prosecutor who has made law and order central to his leadership, said a National-led Government would reverse any law change.
“We would repeal it. And what we would also do is legislate so that strikes under this legislation that they repeal count under our future ones,” he told the Herald.
“So criminals with first and second strikes are not let off the hook.”
That means the clock will not be reset for serious offenders if the law is reintroduced under a National Government.
It was initially thought that Bridges wanted strike offences which occurred even after the law was repealed to also count once National reinstated three strikes.
But a spokeswoman clarified today that only offences committed up until repeal would be considered strike offences and would therefore not be discounted once three strikes was up and running again.
Bridges admitted he had not received advice on the proposed change, which could potentially breach human rights protections.
“Not all retrospective legislation is bad,” he said.
“And in this case it would be a situation where the criminal in question knows they’ve received a strike and would be on notice about the consequence of that.”
No advice … for a lawyer to knowingly go to the edge of the constitution and not seek advice is appalling.
I thought I would have a quick look at the issue.
Section 25 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 says this in relation to minimum standards of criminal procedure:
Everyone who is charged with an offence has, in relation to the determination of the charge, the following minimum rights:
(g) the right, if convicted of an offence in respect of which the penalty has been varied between the commission of the offence and sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser penalty …”
Let us run a scenario. Offender A has two qualifying offences under the current legislation. Labour repeals the law and Offender A then commits a third qualifying offence. He will be subject to sentencing under the conventional rules. No doubt the Judge will see that he has previous convictions and adjust upwards accordingly. But the Judge will be able to take into account all relevant circumstances and not have to sentence him to 25 years for pinching a piece of pizza or 7 years for pinning a prison officer’s buttocks.
But imagine that after Offender A commits the third offence National is re-elected and Simon Bridges reinstates the three strikes law. And the reinstated law says that the former two strike offences are to be taken into account and he is therefore on his third strike.
This would be constitutionally objectionable and a clear break of section 25(g).
So I can see why Bridges walked back on the language suggesting that this would be the result although by using the word “retrospective” he must have known that he was courting controversy.
But the proposal still makes a mockery of the concept of judicial independence. Requiring the judiciary to act in a certain way makes a mockery of the notion of judicial independence.
The proposal is cleverly calibrated. It walks to the edge of constitutional impropriety and no doubt is intended to create controversy.
National clearly is hoping that Labour will come out and oppose and they can then mock them.
And that peoples attention to the horrendous stuff up it made of the Housing Corporation meth policy is relegated from peoples attention.