Topics: Crime, Politics

Govt no longer scrapping Three Strikes law

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Justice Minister Andrew Little has indicated that the Government will not repeal the controversial Three Strikes law after concerns from Coalition partner NZ First.

Just two weeks ago Minister Little made announcements that a proposal to repeal the Three Strikes law would be put forward to Cabinet, however that proposal has now been withdrawn. The Minister acknowledged NZ First was "not prepared to support the repeal of three strikes at this point" also adding that their Coalition partners did not want the repeal to be seen "as separate from a broader programme of criminal justice reform."

When questioned if he had gained the support of NZ First before making his announcements earlier this month, Minister Little said "You don't get a paper before Cabinet that hasn't already gone through a variety of hoops and we had done that but people reflect and we have got to the point now where I'm not putting the paper up."

National Opposition leader Simon Bridges is calling the backtrack clumsy and believes it could be revealing cracks within the Coalition Government. "Quite clearly they haven't followed any process, certainly hadn't gone to Cabinet and more than that hadn't even talked to their support partners."

The repeal is part of Labour's wider plans to overhaul the criminal justice system in an effort to curb the country's growing prison population currently sitting just under 11,000 inmates. That number is expected to rise by another 2000 in the next decade.

"We cannot claim success in our criminal justice system when we've seen a 30 percent increase in our prison inmate numbers in the last few years," Minister Little told reporters.

"Our reoffending rate - even after 30 odd years of longer sentences, more people serving their sentences is still at the same rate it was ten to fifteen years ago. So there is failure in the system that we have to address."

Plans to scrap the law, which serves tougher sentences to serious offenders, were first announced last year after what Mr Little said "isn't working" at curbing reoffending rates. Mr Bridges disagrees.

"It's not some silly draconian style three strikes law as the Labour Party and Andrew Little have tried to betray it. It's something that has been working well, it's been proportionate and has deterred the most violent offenders from going on and committing more offences."

The Government will establish an independent advisory panel soon which will look at ways to improve the criminal justice system.

Mr Bridges says "What they're doing is they're farming these things out to working groups because they know when they don't make a decision and they don't get it right they don't follow any process and it's very messy."

A Criminal Justice Summit will be held later in August.