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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN (Minister of Justice): Good morning and thank you to all those tuning in to this very important debate on the repeal of three strikes legislation.

I want to just make a comment and thank my colleague the Hon Paul Goldsmith for the range of questions that he has put to this committee this morning, and, as he rightly states, over the broken start to this debate. Last night he made a five minute contribution—and I’ll come to that in a minute—and we engaged, I think, very shortly on one other occasion for, again, probably about five to 10 minutes.

The first question that Mr Goldsmith put to me in our first debate and, again, last night and he’s restated again this morning is on what grounds did Mr Faafoi, the Hon Kris Faafoi—when introducing the bill, on what grounds did he consider this to be bad law? Mr Goldsmith puts forward the argument based on international evidence, as cited in the 2018 brief of evidence provided by the Ministry of Justice that there was simply no evidential foundation to say it had not been an effective law. So if we look to, therefore, the aspects of what makes a law or what might be indicia of success. Mr Goldsmith made quite some substantive comments and repeated the catch phrase last night that the response when we are looking at indicia is evidence of crime and how we track where the violent crime has indeed gone up or gone down. To quote him, he said “This was the most infantile response from any Minister of Justice he had ever heard.” Therefore, let’s go through a few grounds on which we might, as lawmakers across this House, look to whether or not law has been effective for the purposes for which we intended to pass the legislation.

In 2009, when this bill was introduced into the House, the three strikes law, the primary lament was that it would incarcerate those that were the worst criminal offenders, and secondly, that this law would act as a deterrent to others who would go on or might consider conducting violent criminal offending in a repeat manner. Therefore, we cast our minds to or we, therefore, look at, after a decade, what is the state of evidence to support the proposition. Has there been a deterrent effect? Well, we should look to, therefore, the results, which is where I referred and directed Mr Goldsmith in our first engagement. Let’s look at whether offences like serious assaults have tracked up or tracked down since 2010.

Hon Judith Collins: Tracked down when we were in Government.

Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: Unfortunately, I can hear the Hon Judith Collins saying that the offences tracked down when they were in Government. Unfortunately, the stark reality is if we looked at the factual and evidential foundation in the documentation provided to the court that simply isn’t the case. So I can see that there has been a stark rise in both serious assaults, serious sexual assaults, robbery. All from the time of about 2013, we start to see a stark rise. So that would be the first type of issue that you’d turn your mind to: has there been a deterrent effect and, if so, is there the corollary of evidence to support that foundation—that proposition rather.

The second thing that we might look to is, OK if not necessarily a deterrent effect, let’s make sure, though, that the criminal justice process is really, perhaps, been more effective for victims of crime or those that have been, you know, the subject of criminal activity. So therefore, we look to whether or not there have been effective criminal justice procedural enhancements. Has there been a reduction in delays or has there been a reduction in prolonged periods by which victims of these serious crimes have to endure lengthy or elongated criminal justice processes? So, therefore, one of the comments that’s been raised in multiple briefs of evidence or submissions, rather, that were provided to the select committee, one of the biggest implications that I could see as to why we might repeal this law, let alone for all of the principled reasons, is one merely for the procedural implications. This came through from the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association. This came through in evidence from—so the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association, of course, is comprised of the judiciary, prosecution, defence, criminal lawyers who work and operate in this area on occasion; this is their bread and butter, so to speak. The biggest thing that they said as to why this—one of the several reasons they put forward—law is bad law is that it takes away an incentive for a person that is in a position where they may plead, enter a guilty plea, it takes away any incentive for them to change their plea from guilty to not guilty through any of the procedural stages. So the real-life implications for those that are the victims of crime is that where there is an incentive for a hardened criminal offender to plead guilty because it might result in a reduced sentencing or other types of incentives, which usually come by entering in a early guilty plea, it reduces that proposition. So therefore, you have victims of crimes sitting through prolonged periods over many years, being exposed to the criminal justice process, and for those of us on this side of the House that are concerned about victims’ experiences, that in itself, removing any incentive for somebody that has perpetrated a crime against another, removing an incentive to truncate the procedural chain, therefore, in my mind creates bad law.

But if I was to step away from the procedural implications, and I start to look at it—well, let’s look at this just through a taxpayer’s proposition. I, as a taxpayer, want to ensure I get good bang for my buck, and if this law doesn’t create a deterrent effect, if it doesn’t create any procedural benefits, which would reduce the impacts on victims, well, surely there must be a cost benefit because I’d want to see something good come out of this law. If I turn my mind to the cost implications, though—and this was a point that’s been made in multiple submissions to the select committee—when you have, I think there is in one instance one of the cases that was referred to, and I think that the select committee will be well familiar with, on appeal the court held that had the judiciary retained their ability to prescribe the sentencing provisions, as one might, they would have incarcerated this person for committing a crime, it was around about three years and nine months. However, as a consequence of the three strikes law, this person was incarcerated to 11 years. Now, if we are to do the maths on that, the cost for incarceration of a prisoner per annum is roughly around $100,000 per year. I haven’t done the maths, but one would think that if we have these people that are incarcerated for far longer, then watch the—you know, our sentencing guidelines would otherwise prescribe, without seeing any benefit like a deterrent, like a lessened impact on victim’s going through the process, and we just see an increase of cost, on that ground, one would think, again, that this is bad law.

My colleague across the House has put multiple propositions to me on this point over, now, three occasions. He has put multiple propositions to me on this particular point over three now occasions. Whilst he might not be able to grapple with the rationale for why this is bad law on any level, I would encourage our friend to cast his mind to Part 1 so that we can debate what this committee of the whole House is intended to do during this time. Thank you, Mr Speaker.