They key difference is that the third strike is not life without parole (unless the strike is for a homicide), but for the maximum sentence (without parole) for that offence. So if the third strike is an indecent assault, they get seven years (the maximum), not life.
This compromise is very sensible, and in fact near identical to what I proposed back in March 2009. Great minds think alike 🙂
The three strikes regime will only apply to serious offences, which generally are violent or sexual offences carrying a maximum sentence of at least seven years. The three strikes will be:
- Judge decides term of imprisonment, and Parole Board can let out early on parole (near automatic at two thirds of a sentence)
- Judge decides term of imprisonment, but no eligibility for parole
- Judge has to sentence for maximum term for that offence, with no parole, unless doing so would be manifestly unjust
This will not affect a huge number of criminals, but it will mean the repeat serious violent and sexual offenders will not get released so quickly.
Also the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill (currently before the Law & Order Select Committee) allows a Judge (regardless of which strike) to impose a sentence of life without parole on the worst killers – so a Clayton Weatherston (for example) would never be eligible for parole until he was old and infirm. This won’t apply to all murderers – just the very worst ones – the Bells, the Burtons, the Weatherstons.
On a process matter, I’m pleased to see the Government is recommending to the Select Committee that they reopen submissions to allow submitters who previously submitted, to submit on these proposed additions to the Bill. All too often the Government introduces major changes after select committee hearings, and then the public have a limited opportunity to have their say.
As I said, I’m very pleased with the agreement. It is a good win for ACT, and a good policy for the Government. Apart from the fact it will be very popular with the public, it is also the right thing to do – repeat serious offenders should be locked away for longer.