Lawyers support repeal of 'three strikes' law

GISBORNE lawyer Adam Simperingham says the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association (NZCBA) supports the Government policy of repealing the “draconian and short sighted” three strikes legislation.

Mr Simperingham says the repeal of the law is a vote of confidence in the ability of judges to be able to sentence offenders appropriately after taking into account all relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances”.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has described the law introduced in 2010 as “silly”.

“It doesn’t work and will be dismantled next year,” Mr Little said.

“It has been on the statute books for eight years now. Our serious offending rate is rising, our prison population is rising.

“Throwing people into prison for longer and longer just isn’t working.”

Mr Simperingham said the NZCBA believed the three strikes legislation did nothing to address the underlying causes of crime or and the need for rehabilitation.

Inflexible sentencing policies had unintended consequences and caused disproportionate outcomes.

The legislation “unduly fettered” the judiciary’s ability to tailor sentences to the facts of any given offending.

In practice, the law created problems.

“Some defendants had no incentive to plead guilty because the judge was required to impose the maximum sentence without any parole for those facing a third strike.

“Charges were being plea-bargained and discretions stretched to try to avoid the unjust consequences of the three strikes law.

“That created a number of artificial situations (such as separate charges of theft and assault instead of a single charge of aggravated robbery) which neither enhanced public confidence nor respect for justice.”

“While the NZCBA acknowledges the role that deterrence and denunciation have in the sentencing process, the new Government should be applauded for its change in policy.

“It is important that our criminal justice system be fair.

“The three strikes legislation had the potential to create unfair outcomes where the crime didn’t warrant the lengthy third strike sentence imposed.

“In the NZCBA’s view, imposing an unfairly long sentence of imprisonment on any offender paves the way for the offender to eventually re-enter society feeling disenfranchised, alienated and angry, and therefore more likely to re-offend,’’ said Mr Simperingham.

The three strikes law was passed in 2010 with Act’s law and order spokesman David Garrett the main architect.
It applies to 40 serious sexual or violent offences.

The first-strike conviction results in a normal sentence and a warning, the second in a sentence without parole and a final warning, and the third the maximum sentence for that offence without parole — though parole eligibility can be granted if a judge deems the sentence manifestly unjust.

The latest Ministry of Justice figures up to July 2017 show 8503 offenders on a first warning, 216 on a final warning, and two convicted of a third strike.

GISBORNE lawyer Adam Simperingham says the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association (NZCBA) supports the Government policy of repealing the “draconian and short sighted” three strikes legislation.

Mr Simperingham says the repeal of the law is a vote of confidence in the ability of judges to be able to sentence offenders appropriately after taking into account all relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances”.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has described the law introduced in 2010 as “silly”.

“It doesn’t work and will be dismantled next year,” Mr Little said.

“It has been on the statute books for eight years now. Our serious offending rate is rising, our prison population is rising.

“Throwing people into prison for longer and longer just isn’t working.”

Mr Simperingham said the NZCBA believed the three strikes legislation did nothing to address the underlying causes of crime or and the need for rehabilitation.

Inflexible sentencing policies had unintended consequences and caused disproportionate outcomes.

The legislation “unduly fettered” the judiciary’s ability to tailor sentences to the facts of any given offending.

In practice, the law created problems.

“Some defendants had no incentive to plead guilty because the judge was required to impose the maximum sentence without any parole for those facing a third strike.

“Charges were being plea-bargained and discretions stretched to try to avoid the unjust consequences of the three strikes law.

“That created a number of artificial situations (such as separate charges of theft and assault instead of a single charge of aggravated robbery) which neither enhanced public confidence nor respect for justice.”

“While the NZCBA acknowledges the role that deterrence and denunciation have in the sentencing process, the new Government should be applauded for its change in policy.

“It is important that our criminal justice system be fair.

“The three strikes legislation had the potential to create unfair outcomes where the crime didn’t warrant the lengthy third strike sentence imposed.

“In the NZCBA’s view, imposing an unfairly long sentence of imprisonment on any offender paves the way for the offender to eventually re-enter society feeling disenfranchised, alienated and angry, and therefore more likely to re-offend,’’ said Mr Simperingham.

The three strikes law was passed in 2010 with Act’s law and order spokesman David Garrett the main architect.
It applies to 40 serious sexual or violent offences.

The first-strike conviction results in a normal sentence and a warning, the second in a sentence without parole and a final warning, and the third the maximum sentence for that offence without parole — though parole eligibility can be granted if a judge deems the sentence manifestly unjust.

The latest Ministry of Justice figures up to July 2017 show 8503 offenders on a first warning, 216 on a final warning, and two convicted of a third strike.

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