Go­ing soft on crime

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion - Matt King MP

Na­tional is con­cerned about the ArdernPeters gov­ern­ment go­ing soft on crime.

It has clearly in­di­cated its in­ten­tions to loosen up our bail, pa­role and sen­tenc­ing laws, and to re­lease more se­ri­ous offenders back into the com­mu­nity. They won’t be build­ing the new Waik­e­ria Prison, de­spite all the ev­i­dence show­ing we are run­ning out of beds to ac­com­mo­date our ris­ing prison pop­u­la­tion.

The gov­ern­ment wants to re­duce prison num­bers by a third, but with­out a plan to re­duce se­ri­ous crime, the only way it will be able do that will be by let­ting more offenders out on our streets. No gov­ern­ment wants to build prisons, but when you’re faced with an in­crease in se­ri­ous crime, re­al­ity means it is nec­es­sary in or­der to pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties. That must al­ways be the pri­or­ity.

Na­tional re­sponded to pub­lic safety con­cerns and tight­ened up our bail laws in 2013. Be­cause my early ca­reer was spent as a front­line po­lice­man, I feel strongly about peo­ple feel­ing safe in their homes and on the streets.

We also im­ple­mented the Three Strikes law, which gives judges the abil­ity to put the worst offenders away for the max­i­mum sen­tence with­out pa­role on their third con­vic­tion. This law is re­served for the most se­ri­ous and re­cidi­vist offenders, who shouldn’t be able to keep blow­ing their chances by com­mit­ting more crimes against in­no­cent peo­ple.

Labour wants to re­verse our bail law changes and get rid of the Three Strikes law, sup­ported by NZ First, even though NZ First has pre­vi­ously cam­paigned on in­tro­duc­ing Three Strikes leg­is­la­tion and stiffer pun­ish­ments for se­ri­ous offenders.

The rise in the prison pop­u­la­tion is not be­cause of tougher bail laws or Three Strikes — it’s be­cause of the ac­tions of se­ri­ous crim­i­nals who are be­ing dealt with se­ri­ously by po­lice and judges. De­spite what the gov­ern­ment and soft on crime ac­tivists might have you be­lieve, our pris­on­ers haven’t just stolen a choco­late bar or tagged on a build­ing. The truth is, 98 per cent of peo­ple in our prisons are there for the most se­ri­ous and vi­o­lent crimes, in­clud­ing ag­gra­vated as­saults, sex­ual vi­o­lence and mur­der. These peo­ple will be let loose on our com­mu­ni­ties if we don’t have enough ca­pac­ity in our prison sys­tem with soft­en­ing bail, pa­role and sen­tenc­ing laws.

The gov­ern­ment’s head­line tar­get to re­duce the prison pop­u­la­tion by 30 per doesn’t stack up with­out new ini­tia­tives or tar­gets to re­duce crime. They seem to think mak­ing it eas­ier for offenders to get out of prison, or harder to get there in the first place, is the an­swer to achiev­ing its goal.

As Na­tional leader Simon Bridges has said, the mea­sure of suc­cess must be to re­duce the num­ber of vic­tims, not the num­ber of pris­on­ers. If we can do the for­mer we achieve the latter. But this gov­ern­ment has no plan to re­duce crime. Its de­ci­sion to ig­nore the need for a new prison and its stated in­ten­tion to let more pris­on­ers out will just make New Zealan­ders less safe.

Na­tional won’t let that hap­pen with­out a fight. Please con­tinue to give me your feed­back on this im­por­tant is­sue.

" No gov­ern­ment wants to build prisons, but when you’re faced with an in­crease in se­ri­ous crime, re­al­ity means it is nec­es­sary . . . "

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