Dom Post on crime levy

The Dom Post criticises National’s levy on criminals:

New Justice Minister Simon Power is either a born optimist or ingenuous. Despite the deep flaws in his policy to fund reparations for victims of crime, he seems determined to proceed with a pre-election promise to levy a so-called crime tax of $50 on everyone convicted in a New Zealand court, The Dominion Post writes.

The scheme aims to offer one-off payments to cover the unexpected costs crime victims encounter that are not met by other government agencies, such as ACC.

This is one promise the Government could have quietly dropped. And that is not because it has no superficial appeal.

I always enjoy the media encouraging political parties to renege on their promises.

The major drawback of Mr Power’s proposal one he himself should see is the reality that those who refuse to pay what they owe now are those who will not pay under his new scheme, which hapless Courts Minister Georgina te Heuheu must help administer.

Conceding that the levy might lift the outstanding debt, she said last week that she hoped some proposals being worked on would help “minimise this increasing figure”. How loyal.

But greater enforcement, should it be achievable, will not tackle the inequity of the Government’s proposal. Why should a woman who unsuccessfully contests a $120 speeding fine pay the same levy as, say, a man convicted of mass murder?

There is no doubt that some criminals will not pay the levy. But some, maybe many will. And if enough pay that it provides a useful amount of money for assistance for victims, then it will have achieved some good.

As for the equity issue, I think the Dom Post overlooks this is not a scheme to further punish criminals. It is about raising money to help assist victims of crime. Hence it does not matter that it is a flat levy, as it is set so low. The sentence is the main punishment. This is a trivial extra fine which might help cover costs for some of the victims.

It is possible it may not work well. But it is too early to know. A key question will be what proportion of the fines/levies are actually paid. Is it over 50%? over 70%? over 80%?

And the other key question will be how much does it cost to administer the scheme. Will the costs of staff administering it, be grather than the amount collected? This is the bigger worry to me. But again, too early to know.

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