SST analysis of three strikes

August 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has done an analysis of the three strikes legislation (which may be gone if the Government changes). As at the end of 2013, the stas are:

  • 1st strikes 3,721
  • 2nd strikes 29
  • 3rd strikes 0

It’s great to see so few second strikes, and that so far there have been no third strikes.

They have a profile of the 24 2nd strikers:

  • 100% have numerous prior convictions as adults. And these are not for minor offences. They include burglary, male assaults female, possession of offensive weapons, robbery, aggravated robbery, indecent assault, theft and many others.
  • 46% have prior convictions for ‘strike’ offences before Three Strikes taking effect on 1 June 2010. Because Three Strikes was not implemented ‘retrospectively’ these prior offences do not count as ‘strikes’ against their record.
  • The average age of second strikers is just under 26 years, and all but one are men. The youngest second striker is 19 years old, and the oldest 45 years old, at the time of second strike sentence.
  • 67% received a sentence of imprisonment for their first strike offence/s. Of those imprisoned, the average term was 14% of the maximum available. The average term imposed was 20 months.
  • 38% of first strikers committed their first strike offence while on bail, parole or while still subject to sentence.
  • 67% of second strikers committed their second strike offence while on bail, parole or while still subject to sentence.
  • 92% received a sentence of imprisonment for their second strike offence/s. Of those imprisoned for their second strike offence/s, the average term was 24% of the maximum available. The average term imposed was 35 months. The term imposed is served without parole or early release under the three strikes law.
  • 67% committed their second strike offence while on bail, parole or while still subject to sentence.

The fact that 38% of second strikers committed their first strike whole on bail or parole is telling.

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Will Labour abolish three strikes for repeat serious offenders?

August 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour voted against the three strikes legislation, and off memory were committed to abolishing it in 2011.  Does anyone know if this is still their policy? They are saying nothing publicly, which makes me suspect it it – but they know it will be unpopular, so keep quiet on it.

The Herald reviews law & order policies, yet doesn’t mention the three strikes law once. Will a change of Government mean repeat serious violent and sexual offenders continue to get parole?

Once the review was completed, Labour would consider several changes which improved the court experience for sexual assault victims. It would look at changing cross-examination rules to make sure victims were not “put on trial”. Specialist courts could be established which trained judges, lawyers and staff in the dynamics of sexual violence and dealing with victims. And the definition of consent could be amended so the burden of proof was shifted from the Crown to the accused. This provoked some public discomfort as critics felt it could impinge on a person’s right to be presumed innocent.

Yep under Labour you will be presumed to be a rapist, ad will have to prove consent, if there is no dispute that sex occurred.

 

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Gangs and crime

August 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jarrod Gilbert has written in the NZ Herald:

The Minister of Police and Corrections, Anne Tolley, has launched a ‘whole government plan on tackling gangs’.

Great, we need one and much of what is being proposed is good. She should be congratulated. What we don’t need is to over-inflate the problem. Unfortunately, in an election year (of course), this is what has occurred.

The Minister says there are 4000 known gang members in New Zealand. She says that so far this year they are responsible* for 34 per cent of class A & B drug offences; 36 percent of kidnapping and abduction offences; 25 per cent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences; 26 per cent of grievous assault offences; and consequently 28 per cent of the prison population is gang members. Sounds bad, right? If we believe what we are told, gang members make up just 0.1 per cent of the population yet they are responsible for between a quarter and more than a third of these serious crimes.

Unfortunately, I suspect it’s bollocks. More than that I’ll bet on it.

I will eat a suitcase full of carrots in front of the fine Sociology Department at the University of Canterbury if this data are correct. I’ll ask the Minister to do the same if I’m right.

Let’s look at what we can prove, because inconveniently she has used specific offences that don’t match with published data. Nevertheless, we are told that 28 per cent of the prison population are gang members. If we take the current prison population as 8500 that means 2380 of known gang members are currently behind bars. Whoa, that means 1620 free gang members are creating all of the carnage that the Minister has cited today.

Not only are the numbers wrong, they are widely inaccurate. Crazy inaccurate. If they’re not I’ll eat carrots.

Gilbert is wrong when he says the specific offences don’t match published data. As an academic, I am surprised he has not discovered the website run by Stats NZ.

He seems to disbelieve that somewhere between 1,620 and 4,000 gang members (some of those in jail will have been out during the year) could commit:

  • 25% of aggravated robberies and robberies
  • 36% of kidnapping and abductions
  • 26% of grievous assaults
  • 34% of class A and B drug offences

So what do the numbers tell us.

Aggravated Robberies and Robberies

There were 2,032 robberies (both types) last year. 25% would be 508. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Kidnappings and Abductions

There were 198 kidnappings and abductions last year. 36% would be 71. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Grievous Assaults

If you add up the 17 assault categories that mention GBH, there were 500 offences last year.  26% would be 130. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Class A and B drug offences

There were 16,070 illicit drug offences in 2013. They are broken up into specific drugs and it would take a long time to do an exact count. But a previous Stats report is that less than 10% are Class A and B. So a fair assumption is 1,607 Class A and B drug offences last year. 34% would be 546. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

So on the face of it, the statistics used by the Minister do not seem incredulous.

UPDATE: I have been sent the actual stats the Minister was relying on, which are for the first quarter of 2014. They are:

  • Class A/B drug offences total 218 out of 649
  • Kidnapping and abduction 16 out of 44
  • Aggravated robbery/robbery 72 out of 284
  • Grievous assault 130 out of 506

I look forward to the Herald covering the Jarrod Gilbert eating his carrots.

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Ouch

July 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A couple of hours trapped in grime ended Porou Wrathall’s career in crime.

Police found the skinny teenager stuck in a fatty pipe at Mr Fish and Chips shop in Langdons Rd, Papanui, about 2.30am on June 17, after they were alerted by neighbours who heard Wrathall’s cry for help.

Yesterday an embarrassed but relieved Wrathall, 18 and a first offender, told The Press the offence had occurred during a drunken moment and was “the start and end” of his criminal career.

He had just appeared in the Christchurch District Court, where his conviction for burglary was penalised with an order he come up for sentence if called upon within 12 months.

In some ways, he had already paid dearly for his stupidity. He was stuck in the greasy fish and chip shop extractor vent for several hours. A steel support was jammed between his buttocks, he was caked in fat and he was cold and sore. He then spent four days in hospital due to hypothermia and kidney problems caused by the confinement.

Heh, now that is karma. I do hope he has recovered though and learnt a lesson.

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Maori offending

July 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The prison system has achieved little in lowering the rate of Maori offending and a century of appalling Maori crime statistics shows no sign of abating, according to an iwi justice advocate.

That is because generally the role of the prison system is to protect the community, not lower offending. Lowering offending is important, but that involves drug and alcohol counselling, education, rehabilitation programmes and the like. Some of that can be done through prisons, but again the primary role of prisons is to keep the community safe.

A joint police and iwi justice programme in Wellington that aims to reduce Maori crime statistics was presented to the Maori King Tuheitia and his pan-tribal council Tekau-maa-rua in Ngaruawahia yesterday.

Chair of the iwi justice panel at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt, Neville Baker, said the current system had failed Maori for decades and the systems needed to change.

“Maori have been incarcerated for 100 years and we are getting worse so why would we want to continue with the prison system,” said Baker.

It’s great to see a focus on reducing offending. I would point out that the trend is actually positive. The Herald reported last year:

A progress report on the Government’s crime prevention programme shows Maori youth offending down by 32 per cent over three years.

The Drivers of Crime programme, launched in December 2009, brings together crime prevention work of the justice and social sector.

The latest report shows offending rates for Maori youth between 2008 and 2012 dropped 32 per cent.

Youth offending is probably the most important to target.

There has also been a small decrease in the number of Maori in prison – a 3.6% reduction from March 2011 (4,483) to to March 2014 (4,320).

Still a huge amount more to be done, but the solutions are not as simple as just saying less prison. If an offender’s crimes are serious enough or repetitive enough, the protecting the community comes first.

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NZ First self-defence policy

July 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A hardline law and order policy by NZ First would offer greater protection to homeowners, farmers and shop keepers who shoot to kill intruders during home invasions or burglaries.

Along with a 40-year mandatory non-parole sentence for premeditated murder, NZ First wants the Crimes Act amended to give certainty over the use of “reasonable force” for self-defence.

Ahead of the party’s annual convention this weekend, law and order spokesman Richard Prosser said the policy was a response to a string of incidents that had seen farmers and shopkeepers in court over their use of firearms or even hockey sticks against would-be robbers.

Mr Prosser said so-called “castle doctrine” laws in some US states, which saw Texan Joe Horn acquitted after his 2007 fatal shooting of two men who had burgled his neighbour’s home, were “so over the top that it wouldn’t be something that I think anyone in New Zealand would give consideration to”.

“But what I do think people have a desire for is the ability to actually defend themselves and their families in their own homes.”

Mr Prosser wants a regime based on that introduced in Ireland in 2011 following controversy over the 2004 shooting of an Irish traveller by a farmer.

NZ First’s proposal would allow for homeowners to use “any firearm that is lawfully available to that person” to defend themselves.

It is unclear exactly what NZ First are proposing.

If they are proposing that you can legally shoot anyone illegally on your property, then I can not support that. The penalty for tresspassing and/or burglary should not be death.

If they are proposing that when a homeowner has a genuine fear for their safety, or their families, then they can use firearms for self-defence – I can back that. But shooting someone in the back, as they are leaving, is not self-defence (for example).

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A restorative justice case backed by Garth McVicar

July 15th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The hardline Sensible Sentencing Trust has come out in support of a judge’s decision not to jail a drink-driver who killed a New Plymouth woman.

Hogan Bolton, 31, of New Plymouth, was sentenced on July 4 to nine months’ home detention following the death of artist and mother Carmen Rogers after she was hit in Brougham St on May 6.

His breath alcohol was 1297mcg. The legal level is 400mcg.

As well as making a $50,000 emotional harm reparation to the family he has agreed to appear in an anti-drink driving documentary.

The sentence, worked out through the restorative justice process, has reignited debate on the futility of imprisoning offenders rather than focusing on more effective alternatives.

Yesterday, Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said he was supportive of Judge Allan Roberts’ decision.

“Normally I’m not a big fan of restorative justice. Often victims haven’t been told the full picture, that attending a restorative justice conference reduces the sentence.

“But I’m a big fan of offenders being held to account. And if that involves public speaking and a documentary in this case, then that’s great.”

His stance might put him out on a limb with others in his group, McVicar said.

Obviously Bolton was incredibly remorseful and the judge should be given a pat on the back for thinking outside the square, McVicar said.

Before sentencing Carmen Rogers’ husband Che, his family and Bolton had met in a day-long restorative justice conference.

Che Rogers said he did not want Bolton jailed.

Rather it was agreed that Bolton be part of an anti-drink-driving documentary and also give a speech to senior Spotswood college students with Nouveau, 15, Che and Carmen Rogers’ older daughter.

Seems a good outcome. Restorative justice and non custodial sentences are great when the offenders are truly remorseful and not repeat offenders. I’m sceptical of their value when it does involve a serious repeat offender.

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Is this a candidate for life without parole?

June 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A 39-year-old man has been found guilty of kidnapping and murdering a Hawkes Bay sickness beneficiary.

Steven Tiwini Rakuraku faced 11 charges, including the murder of the 50-year-old Johnny Charles Wright, who disappeared on June 21, 2011. …

A reader suggests that Rakuraku is a candidate for life without parole – a sentencing option available since 2010. He notes:

  • Victim was effectively imprisoned in his own home.

  • Victim was effectively tortured over a period of weeks, if not months, buy repeated beatings, including with a weapon of war (Taiaha).  This was not a one-time, sudden loss of control murder, it was premeditated and repeated, brutal and callous in the extreme.

  • I understand the offender has a serious history of offending prior to this case.

The question has to be that if a crime like this doesn’t qualify for LWOP, what would qualify?

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Protecting victims

June 25th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Victims of serious violent and sexual offences can now have a “non-contact order” placed on their attackers.

The new legislation is the latest in a raft of reforms to the way in which the justice system treats victims of violent crime.

The non-contact order may be applied to offenders who have been sentenced to more than two years in prison for a violent or sexual offence.

It prohibits the offender from contacting the victim in any way, including electronically. In some cases, offenders can be banned from entering, living, or working in a particular area.

Victims must apply to a court for the non-contact order after the offender has been sentenced. The order can also cover an offender’s associates.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the new measures would help victims move on with greater piece of mind.

A lot of victims live in fear once their offender is released from prison. while these orders do not guarantee offenders will obey them, they should help in most of the cases.

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Herald against and Labour undecided on people needing to prove their innocence

June 19th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The most contentious idea involves changing the burden of proof so it lies with the perpetrators of child abuse and domestic violence, not the victims. Allied to this is a review of the adversarial system that is said to place an excessive burden of proof on victims, and to lead often to drawn-out proceedings that further disadvantage victims and put many into significant debt.

The report says people with experience of the present model had indicated they would favour a more collaborative system.

The report is not totally out of step in advancing these views. A flipping of the deeply embedded precept of the burden of proof, whereby the necessity to provide proof lies with whoever lays charges, is no longer beyond the pale. Abusive parents must now prove to Child, Youth and Family that they are no longer a threat. As well, bail amendment legislation requires a person on a murder charge or repeat violence, class A drug or sex charges to persuade a judge that the community will be safe if they are released. New Zealand’s appalling family violence record — the police respond to a call relating to this every seven minutes, according to the report — convinces some that there is good reason to further override the principle.

These are about people who have already been convicted of an offence. That is very different to saying anyone charged should have to prove their innocence.

But any such impulse should be resisted. Arguably, the two steps taken by the Government are valid responses to extraordinary circumstances where there is a clear danger to members of society. Both do not involve such a sweeping inversion of the burden of proof principle as would be the case if it were applied to all alleged perpetrators of child abuse and domestic violence.

The precept that a defendant has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty is too fundamental to our legal system and too strong a safeguard against wrongful conviction to be so comprehensively dismissed.

Absolutely. But sadly Labour is incapable of even deciding they’re against such a thing.

So I’ve got an idea. If Labour is open to reversing the burden of proof on allegations, then we should start the process by alleging that they have filed corrupt false donation returns and require them to prove they are innocent!

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Violent Crime

June 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The latest desperate go by Labour is to blame National for the recent killings in West Auckland.

David Cunliffe’s chief setter upper of secret trusts blogs at The Standard:

Lately West Auckland has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Four alleged homicides in less than a month, two domestic, one from a neighbourhood dispute and the latest allegedly involving a 12 year old and a 13 year old and the robbery of a local dairy owner have put West Auckland in the media for all of the wrong reasons.

The deaths have created a deep sense of unease.  What is going wrong?

Local MP Phil Twyford has expressed his deep misgivings:

What kind of country have we become when a dairy owner is killed in his shop at 7 o’clock in the morning allegedly by a child with a knife?

“The young accused were well known to local shopkeepers in a retail centre where begging, intimidation and anti-social behaviour have unfortunately been all too common.

“The community is asking why there has not been a more visible police presence, with regular foot patrols to discourage law-breaking. There is a community constable delegated to cover Henderson but the officer is based in Massey. We’d like to see a community constable based in the town centre, with a shop front on the main street.

The right have responded predictably.  Cameron Slater claimed that Twyford was politicising murder.  Obviously as far as he is concerned it is better for the causes not to be debated.

This claim is deeply hypocritical.  David Farrar during 2008 posted a series of posts suggesting that violent crime was worsening and implying that the fifth Labour Government was responsible.

Firstly I blogged on official crime stats, I never went blaming the Government the day after a (alleged) murder. That is sad and desperate.

As for the “suggestion” that violent crime was worsening, well here are the stats from Stats NZ:

violentcrime

Doesn’t that tell a dramatic story.

The Government doesn’t control all, or even most, of the factors that cause crime. But it does control policy on sentencing, parole and bail, and also funding for Police and for rehabilitation.

Presland continues:

As far as I am concerned there is a political element to what is happening out west and this is why this Government’s policies should be put under the microscope.  Potential causes include the following:

  1. Poverty.  Three of the deaths occurred in one of the poorest parts of West Auckland and the alleged killer in the fourth was apparently begging.  Trickle down is not working.

  2. Policing.  I have heard that the Waitakere Criminal Investigation Unit is severely understaffed, with up to a third of positions not currently filled.  There are many dedicated police officers working in the area but if the Police does not have sufficient resources they will not be able to do their job properly.

  3. Education.  It is astounding that the Government can find $360 million to attempt to bribe teachers with promises of more pay but cannot increase funding for alternative education.  Imagine what a difference this sum could make if applied to kids who are clearly at risk.

  4. Working conditions.  The right are already saying “what about the parents”.   Sure there are bad parents around.  There are also good parents working inhumane hours just to make ends meet.

I think my favourite is that National offering $360 million to pay the best teachers more, so they can share their skills with colleagues, is somehow linked to the murder in West Auckland. And this isn’t some deranged anonymous blogger – but one of the closest advisors to the Labour Leader.

Incidentially see Mr Presland wants to play this game, there were 234 homicides (and related offences) in the last three years (2011 to 2013). In 2006 to 2008 there were 291. So does that mean Labour in its third term had failed to do anythng about poverty, policing, education and working conditions? And doesn’t the 20% drop in homicides then mean that those factors have all improved?

Of and finally, as Mr Presland is talking about West Auckland, I had a look at the violent crime stats for Waitemata Police District.

In 2008 there were 3,952 violent crimes in Waitemata. In 2013 there were 3,134. That’s a huge 26% drop.

So I say bring it on, if Labour wants to start talking violent crime in West Auckland. It will be a great way to get them ever lower in the 20s in the polls.

UPDATE: Rachel Smalley also calls out Labour for politising a tragedy. Smalley notes:

However Mr Twyford suggests that questions should be asked about why there hasn’t been a more visible police presence in Henderson with regular foot patrols to discourage law-breaking. There is a suggestion that a more visible police presence would have prevented this crime.

I don’t think you can say that a lack of police resources contributed, on some level, to Mr Kumar’s death. I don’t think that police officers walking the streets would have stopped such a senseless crime. Whoever killed Mr Kumar had no compassion or respect for humanity, and I don’t believe that you could have prevented what happened by instructing a policeman to walk down the street from time to time.

Tragedies like the murder of Arun Kumar should not be politicised. We’ve seen politicians out in Henderson. Len Brown’s been there, the Auckland mayor. Labour MPs have paid their respects. But I think the Kumar family’s greatest support right now will come from the police, not from politicians.

I don’t want to see more police on the streets. I want to see better parenting in our homes. That’s where the issue of accountability lies. Children who are loved and nurtured don’t grow up to be killers.

Labour, I think, has picked the wrong fight on this.

I think it is just a sign of Labour’s desperation.

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Why didn’t they taser me?

June 6th, 2014 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Unbelievable. The Herald reports:

David Taite still does not accept he should have been shot by police officers in an incident near the Central Hawke’s Bay township of Otane in October 2011.

Living in Waipukurau since the beginning of the year Taite, 51, is paralysed from the waist down as a result of his injuries.

So why was he shot?

Taite called out that he had a gun and was going to kill the officer. The officer, who was on the radio, got out of the patrol car and drew his Glock pistol, telling Taite he was armed and Taite should get on the ground.

Ignoring this instruction Taite moved towards the officer, who repeated the instruction to lie down. Taite ignored this and continued to advance towards the officer who then fired a single shot at Taite’s chest.

Taite fell to the ground and continued to yell abuse at the officers. He then started crawling towards the open driver’s side door of the patrol car where the keys were in the ignition and the car was running.

Concerned that Taite might try to escape using the police car, one of the officers ordered him to roll over and show his hands.

Taite then put his hand inside his trousers and replied that he had a grenade and was going to blow everyone up.

Concerned about this new threat and the safety of those around him, the officer struck Taite in the face, stunning him and Taite was then handcuffed.

The officers assessed Taite’s injuries as they waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Taite suffered a spinal injury from the gunshot and is permanently paralysed from his waist down.

What a shame we now have to pay for his care. He’s been shot once, and then claims he has a grenade. Such stupidity is lucky to be alive. The Police would have been within their rights to fire several more bullets into him.

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The Blessie alleged killer

May 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The brother of the sole survivor of the 2001 Mt Wellington RSA massacre says suppressing the name of the man charged with Blessie Gotingco’s murder isn’t fair on the community.

Stephen Couch’s sister Susan Couch was bashed and left for dead by William Bell after he murdered William Absolum, Mary Hobson, and Wayne Johnson.

Bell was under Corrections supervision at the time and had gone into the RSA to steal $12,000. He had been released from prison after serving five years for aggravated robbery on conditions being monitored by Corrections, through the Probation Service.

Mr Couch was speaking out after learning the man accused of murdering her was known to authorities.

I understand the accused is very very well known to authorities. Not sure how much one can say, but I will say I think it is a pity the three strikes law wasn’t in place a long time ago.

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TVs now a human right?

May 27th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prisoner Kerryn Mitchell spends her $2.70 weekly allowance on coffee, fruit and phonecards, so she struggles to understand how she will afford to rent a television.

The Corrections Department wants to introduce the rental scheme in an effort to reduce the amount of contraband smuggled into prisons in inmates’ personal TVs – but Mitchell has brought a High Court case claiming the removal of her own set is a breach of her rights.

Ms Mitchell has also sued in the past for not having a proper mattress, after she had destroyed four in a row.

Also sued for not receiving the Dominion Post and not having her mail delivered to another prisoner.

She seems to be a life long criminal. Even back in 1994 she was suing the Police – in fact the first lawsuit under the Privacy Act. She won $500.

Not sure the full extent of Mitchell’s offending, but she has ten convictions for breaching protections orders.

The scheme removes the right of prisoners to bring their own TVs into prison, replacing them with department-issued clear-framed sets that can be rented for $2 per week.

Prisoners who earn less than $5.40 a week are charged only $1, and in special circumstances the sets can be provided free.

Sounds heartless.

I wonder if many of these lawsuits could be curtailed by a law which explicitly says that prisoners do not have a right to a television, newspaper, Internet etc.

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Prisoner drug treatment up from 234 to 4,700

May 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More than 50 per cent of crime was committed by people under the influence of drugs and two-thirds of prisoners had substance abuse problems, the Corrections Service national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said.

Because of that, addressing alcohol and other drug abuse among offenders significantly contributed towards the department’s goal to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent in the next three years, he said.

“We are now over half way to achieving this target and re-offending has fallen by over 12 per cent against the June 2011 benchmark.

As a result, there were 2319 fewer offenders and 9276 fewer victims of crime each year.

All positive.

In 2009 nearly $2.7m was spent on drug treatment in New Zealand prisons.

By last year that had increased to $5.3m.

All prisons had recently introduced treatment programmes, he said.

“All prisoners are now screened for alcohol and drug problems when they enter prison which allows staff to make appropriate decisions on the amount of support required.

“This means that every prisoner now undergoes screening for addictions, health, mental health and education when they enter a corrections facility.”

Should have happened a long time ago.

In the 2013-14 financial year more than 3700 prisoners will have access to treatment for their addictions rising to 4700 next year.

That leapt from just 234 in 2007-08.

Labour talked the talk when it came to rehabilitation, but never walked the walk.

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NZ leading in crime prevention

May 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

New Zealand leads the world in crime prevention and putting victims first, according to a visiting criminologist.

Gloria Laycock, a professor of crime science at University College, London, is in New Zealand for the Leading Justice Symposium, held yesterday in Wellington.

She told attendees, including Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Judith Collins, that New Zealand’s approach to fighting crime is working.

“I think you think you’re not doing too well, but I actually think you’re right at the top,” she said on Firstline this morning.

“The way things are going in New Zealand, you’ll be having people beating a path to your door.”

Ms Collins says crime in New Zealand is at a 36-year low, which she attributes to stiffer sentencing, rehabilitation “attitudinal change”, among other things.

The Government has had a sensible mix of policies – taking a hard line on repeat serious and violent offenders, plus making parole and bail harder – but also investing heavily in rehabilitation, drug and alcohol treatments and the like.

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Dr Jarrod Gilbert on National’s rehabilitation policies

March 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Dr Jarrod Gilbert writes:

Out went the old school chief executive Barry Mathews and in came Ray Smith, a man with a ton of bureaucratic experience but none in corrections, and it was the latter that served him well. He has been bold and acted in ways that only the naïve can: unhampered by past failures or concerns. 

Suddenly we are focusing on trying to turn around the lives of prisoners. In short, we are helping them and not just housing them. The culture shift that this requires inside prison walls is one I could not have believed if not for seeing it with my own eyes. The fear, of course, is that all of this will be seen as going soft on crime. And will the electorate support that when for years it has been told ‘lock ‘em up’ is the answer?

Smith is not some mad maverick acting alone, his bravery reflects that of his minister and the government. Smith is overseeing a policy of reducing reoffending by 25 percent over five years. Those aren’t just statistics. Every person who doesn’t reoffend means at least one less victim of crime. 

Former Labour Party President Mike Williams, now with the Howard League for Penal Reform, says Anne Tolley is the best Corrections Minister NZ has had.

This will be one of the interesting elements of this election. What part will crime and justice policy play? Can the National Party, who has done so incredibly well in this area, convince the people that this U-turn is actually in everybody’s interests?

Here’s were I disagree. I don’t think a focus on rehabilitation and a tough line on criminals who do keep reoffending is contradictory or a u-turn. You rehabilitate those you can, and lock up those you can’t.

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Reoffending down

March 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Tolley announced:

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says the Government is now over half way to achieving the Better Public Service target of a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017.

Reoffending has fallen by 12.6 per cent against the June 2011 benchmark, resulting in 2,319 fewer offenders and 9,276 fewer victims of crime each year.

“These figures are extremely encouraging, and combined with a 17.4 per cent drop in recorded crimes over the last three years it shows our communities are safer,” says Mrs Tolley.

The crimes figures are good, but get impacted by many factors. The reoffending rate is in my view more important. That has real flow on long term benefits.

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A 1500% increase in drug and alcohol treatment for prisoners

March 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Tolley has said:

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says there has been a rise of almost 1500 per cent in places on drug and alcohol treatment programmes for prisoners since 2008.

This financial year over 3,700 prisoners will have access to treatment for their addictions, rising to 4,700 next year, up from just 234 in 2007/08.

The Government has expanded the number of specialist Drug Treatment Units in prisons from six to nine, while there has been a fourfold increase in places at the Units. In addition, since last year all prisons have introduced brief and intermediate treatment programmes and Northland and Auckland Women’s have begun intensive support, as part of the drive to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

Corrections has so far reduced reoffending by 11.8 per cent, resulting in 8668 fewer victims of crime each year.

“The revolution in offender rehabilitation is going from strength to strength in the key areas of addiction treatment, education and skills training,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Support for prisoners tackling drug and alcohol abuse is just common sense, as we know that these addictions are a major driver of crime.

“All prisoners are now screened for alcohol and drug problems when they enter prison, which allows staff to make appropriate decisions on the amount of support required. This means that every prisoner now undergoes screening for addictions, health, mental health and education when they enter a facility.

When a criminal keeps reoffending, we need to take a hard line and keep them locked up to protect the community. But absolutely we should be investing in treatment to reduce reoffending as that is a win-win. It’s great to see the Government investing so much in drug and alcohol treatment and reducing reoffending.

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Three strikes for burglaries

March 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Burglars will be sent to prison for a minimum of three years without parole on the third burglary conviction under new policy announced today by Act leader Jamie Whyte.

A lot of people may be surprised to know that a very similar policy is the law of the land in the United Kingdom, and was passed by a Labour Government.

Under the UK law an adult burglar convicted of their third burglary must be given a sentence of at least three years in prison unless the court considered there to be “exceptional circumstances”. I’m unsure if the UK law is also without parole, but that appears to be the only possible difference.

So this proposal isn’t some far right extremist policy. It is a law put in place by a left-wing Government in the UK – just one that was hard line on law and order.

It is unclear how many people would be affected in New Zealand by such a law, and what the cost would be. ACT deserve some criticism for not having any estimates at all about impact and cost, but the UK experience suggests it may not be that great.

In 2012 there were 2,693 convictions for burglary (as the primary offence). Around 40% of them or 1,055 received a custodial sentence. That suggests repeat burglars are already mainly getting prison sentences.

How long is the average sentence for burglary, if custodial? A report to 2006 found an average sentence of around 15 months. This is for all custodial sentences for burglary. I imagine it is longer for those on their third conviction.

So there would be some costs associated with this policy, with more burglars in prison and for longer. The potential benefits though are that while in prison, recidivist burglars are not robing people’s homes, and also that the law may discourage recidivist burglars from carrying on.

A report in the Daily Telegraph found that from 2000 to 2008, only 3,018 people had been convicted of a third burglary. The burglary rate halved in the decade to 2010.

So what would be the expected number of third strike burglars in NZ, based on respective populations. They have around 15 times our population so one might expect over an eight year period 200 recidivist burglars to get a third strike. That suggests the costs of such a policy could be relatively modest.

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Two fake lawyers

February 26th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The chief executive of a legal firm stepped down soon after it was discovered he did not have the law degree he claimed to have.

Michael Vukcevic left Auckland firm Baldwins, which specialises in intellectual property law, for “personal reasons”, according to a press release in November.

The 43-year-old is an experienced business leader who has worked closely with government ministers and agencies negotiating free-trade agreements in the Middle East.

A Herald investigation can reveal that Mr Vukcevic does not have a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) as stated on the curriculum vitae he submitted for the job two years earlier.

Pretty embarrassing that a major law firm didn’t check a claimed law degree for its chief executive.

Mr Vukcevic was previously on the board of Transparency International New Zealand, an anti-corruption agency dedicated to promote transparency, accountability and integrity in government and civil society.

Oh, the irony.

Stuff reports on another fake lawyer:

A serial conman with 184 convictions has been told a jail sentence is likely after he was found guilty of deception by impersonating a lawyer.

Brian Hunter, who was described by his own lawyer as a fantasist, yesterday clocked up convictions 183 and 184 after being found guilty of two charges of obtaining by deception in a judge-only trial in Napier District Court. …

Brian Damian Hunter, 55, now has 184 convictions. Nearly all involve dishonesty offending.

He was first convicted in Wellington in 1974.

He has received many non-custodial sentences, and was jailed in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998.

I think our three strikes law is set appropriately so that only serious violent or sexual crimes result in a strike offence, where your third strike is the maximum sentence without parole.

But I do wonder if we need something similar for the recidivist criminals who don’t beat, kill and rape – but do create victims and misery.

Maybe not three strikes for them, but 30 strikes or even 50 strikes? Basically a realisation that they have decided to remain a criminal permanently, so that any future offending will be an automatic jail term in order to protect the community.

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A pitiful punishment

February 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Blenheim man who became enraged and strangled a police dog was sentenced in the Blenheim District Court yesterday.

Lee Peter Kite, 18, of Riversdale, previously admitted charges of burglary, resisting police, cruelty to animals, assaulting police and discharging a firearm near a dwelling.

Judge John Bergseng said the dog has difficulty moving and has still not returned to work after the attack on September 26.

Kite and his brother had gone to an empty house at Lucas St about 12.50am with a knife and a screwdriver.

A neighbour phoned the police because they knew the house was supposed to be vacant.

Police arrived and let a police dog into the property.

Kite became enraged and attacked the police dog, grabbing it around the neck and strangling it, Judge Bergseng said.

When the dog handler stepped in to stop Kite attacking the dog, Kite lashed out, struggling with police until he was Tasered.

The attack aggravated an existing shoulder injury of the police officer, which had to be operated on last week.

Kite was sentenced to three months’ community detention, 12 months’ supervision and $250 hours’ community work.

He was also ordered to pay $593.39 in reparations for the ill-treatment of the dog.

He assaulted police and tried to kill a police dog. And he gets community detention. Pitiful.

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Parental responsibility

January 13th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The parents or guardians of young people before the courts could have bail conditions imposed on them as well as their children, such as not drinking alcohol and having to reside at a particular address, under a private members’ bill in the name of Northland MP Mike Sabin.

I’d be cautious about this.

In many cases of a wayward youth, the parents are a contributing factor. But equally, there are some kids who go off the tracks despite the best parenting and family support possible. Having parents share some liability for what their kids do could set a dangerous precedent.

The Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Parent’s and Guardian’s Responsibility) Amendment Bill would allow the Youth Court to set bail conditions for parents and guardians in a bid to prevent re-offending.

Mr Sabin believed at least half of the responsibility for youth offending was down to adults making sure their children were being properly supervised.

Mr Sabin’s bills have been approved by the National Party caucus for support at first reading should any be drawn from the ballot.

I think it is a worthy debate to have, and if it goes to select committee, would be a good forum for hearing that debate. But the possible precedent does concern me.

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A Criminal Cases Review Commission

January 4th, 2014 at 8:18 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Millions of taxpayers’ dollars could be saved by setting up an independent body to investigate miscarriages of justice currently dealt with by a “clumsy and blunt” court process, Canterbury University’s dean of law says.

Chris Gallavin and Labour justice spokesperson Andrew Little have renewed a decade-old debate, calling for the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission.

I’m actually a supporter of such a Commission. It was the Peter Ellis case that convinced me it was necessary.

Little said the current process for dealing with alleged miscarriages of justice was “very ad hoc and there’s no dedicated resources to it”.

He quoted research which showed there were about 12 cases of injustice in New Zealand each year, but only one or two were picked up in through the prerogative of mercy process.

As I said, I support such a Commission. But what isn’t clear is whether Labour is promising to establish one, or is just calling for this Government to introduce one. There is a significant difference. If it is the former, then what are the proposed details of it, what will it cost, and what will its scope and powers be? Much harder to do the detailed work, than to just say I think this is a good idea.

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Cherry picking over the imprisonment rate

December 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sensationalised mass media, the rise of populist pressure groups and distrust of expert input has led to New Zealand’s Third World levels of imprisonment, a leading academic says.

In a paper titled A Punitive Society, Victoria University criminology Professor John Pratt has attacked New Zealand’s continually rising imprisonment rate and what he terms “penal populism” around crime.

I’ve never ever heard a criminology academic (exception of Greg Newbold) say anything on law & order that isn’t 1000% predictable.

In New Zealand, there are 194 prisoners for every 100,000 people.

This is higher than anywhere in Western Europe and sits between African countries Gabon and Namibia on a global league table.

This is carefully cherry picked as saying that our imprisonment rate is only the 74th highest in the world doesn’t sound anywhere near as sexy. Also note the careful selection of Western Europe only so European and OECD countries such as Estonia, Czech Republic and Poland are excluded.

The crime rate has been falling for years and yet the prison population and corrections spending has ballooned to $1.2 billion this year, Professor Pratt said.

Corrections spending includes rehabilitation and extra money for drug and alcohol treatment. Is Professor Pratt against this?

The leading academic also has the most basic facts wrong. He claims the prison population is increasing. It is not. The latest head count has 8,474 prisoners. Three years ago it was 8,747. That is a decrease.

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