A former California Superior Court judge believes the three-strikes law in New Zealand could turn into a cancer.
Eugene Hyman has just resigned after 18 years presiding over cases in the criminal, civil, probate, family and delinquency divisions of the court.
In 1999, he presided over the first juvenile domestic violence court in the United States.
Mr Hyman, who is in New Zealand to visit friends, said part of the reason he had stepped away from being a judge was frustration at the legal system in California. He had often been forced to send people to jail with no parole for relatively minor offences under the state’s three-strikes law.
Hyman is a well known critic of the US three strikes law. However the NZ law is very different. You can’t get sentenced to jail with no parole for minor offences under the NZ law. A strike only applies to an offence with a maximum sentence of seven or more years.
New Zealand passed its own three-strikes law through Parliament last year. The effects of the legislation would not be felt for several years until offenders reached their third warning, but there was a risk that more and more offences would be added to the list of those that qualified for a strike, he said.
“By Californian standards, yours is pretty lenient, but has the potential to become cancer.
So in fact he is basically saying the NZ law is fine, he just doesn’t want it changed. Fine – neither do I.