The offenders’ levy

Simon Power has announced:

The Government’s $50 offender levy has reached its first-year target of $2 million nearly five months earlier than expected, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

Since July last year, all convicted offenders have been required to pay a $50 levy at the time of sentencing, regardless of the crime they commit. The levy is collected after reparation and before fines, and is in addition to any sentence or court order.

Excellent.

“The Ministry of Justice estimated that $2 million would be collected in the first year, based on the assumption that 42 per cent of offenders would pay up,” Mr Power said.

“In fact, 55 per cent have paid so far.

“That means we met our first-year target on 5 February, as opposed to 1 July, and that’s fantastic news for victims of crime because it means we can put more into services for them.

The payment rate is around one third higher than projected.

Mr Power said reaching the levy target almost five months early shows how misguided the Party leadership was when it slammed the idea.

“When we announced in 2008 our intention to introduce the levy, now-Deputy Leader Annette King said she was ‘astounded’ by the plan, describing it as a ‘bizarre piece of gimmickry’ and ‘a laughable hoax’.

“And when we introduced the levy last year, Labour leader Phil Goff accused us of overestimating the amount we would collect.

For some bizarre reason Labour have opposed this levy which forces convicted criminals to contribute to the costs of victims. And to be absolutely clear Goff said the Government over-estimated the amount it would collect and in fact they under-estimated it.

So you have to wonder, do Labour now support the levy? Sadly, no. Clayton Cosgrove spins:

Labour’s Law and Order spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove says Labour’s prediction is being borne out that National’s $50 levy on every offender will cost more to administer than it will raise to help victims.

“The levy is quite simply a gimmick,” Clayton Cosgrove said. “Since it came into effect in July last year it has raised about $2 million, and it will cost $2.4 million to set up and administer over the first year.

Clayton fails Maths 101. He is comparing one off set-up costs and the full year operational costs with the income of the first seven months.

Setting up the mechanism for the levy cost $1.3m. That is one off.

The collection cost for 2010/11 is $1.1m. And it has collected $2m in just 7 months. If that continues then it will collect $3.4m over the year. So the income will meet the operating cost by around a 3:1 margin. Even if you depreciate the set-up costs over three years, then that is income of $3.4m against expenditure of $1.5m – providing $2/year to help victims.

I’m amazed Labour is still opposing the offenders levy, when the evidence is clearly there that the amount it is gathering in is sufficient to make it worthwhile. Politically very stupid on their part, as it means National can now point to all of the below, which is funded by the levy, and tell people Labour are against them:

  • Four paid homicide support co-ordinators to work with Victim Support’s volunteer network.
  • An increase in the discretionary grant for families of homicide victims, from $1,500 to $5,000.
  • A court service for victims of sexual violence which will give them access to a trained adviser who understands the dynamics of sexual violence cases and victims’ needs.
  • A grant of $500 towards the expenses incurred as a result of sexual violence, such as replacing items of clothing collected for forensic evidence.
  • Increases in travel, accommodation and childcare assistance for victims attending court proceedings (from $1,000 to $3,000), and Parole Board hearings (from $500 to $1,500).
  • A High Court attendance grant of $124 per person per day for up to five adult members of a homicide victim’s family.
  • A funeral grant of up to $4,458.77 to families of homicide victims, on top of the $5,541.23 available through ACC (up to $10,000 in total).

This will be a great question at electorate meet the candidate meetings. Why does Labour oppose convicted crimnals paying a $50 levy to help fund victim support services?

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