There are two huge dangers for the Government with its desire to repeal the Three Strikes law. The first is that the law is very popular. Polling done in March by Curia found the following levels of support:
- All NZers – 68% support
- National voters 78% support
- NZ First voters 66% support
- Labour voters 63% support
- Green voters 48% support
The net support (support less opposition) is:
- All NZers +48%
- National voters +65%
- NZ First voters +39%
- Labour voters +38%
- Green voters +16%
But that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that if the law gets repealed, those who vote to repeal the law can be held accountable for crimes committed by second strikers released early.
With most law changes, you can't know for certain that a law change led to that criminal being out on the streets. Changes to maximum sentences, to bail eligibility etc can't allow you to conclude with certainity that the criminal who bashed or raped someone would have been in or out of prison before the law change. Because Judges and the parole board use discretion in deciding each case.
But the three strikes law is all about removing that discretion. It is about certainty. So one will be able to say “This crime would never have happened if Politician A had not voted to change the law”.
Let's take an example. Say a second striker is given a nine year jail sentence for a rape. Under the current law they must serve the full nine years. If the law is repealed, they can be let out anytime between three years and nine years.
If they get let out after say six years and then a month later rape someone else, it will be crystal clear that the law change allowed that rape to happen. It won't be the fault of the Parole Board. It will be the fault of the MPs who voted to repeal three strikes.
If the law is repealed, it is almost beyond doubt that some second strikers will get parole and go on to commit horrible crimes while on parole. The MPs who vote to repeal three strikes will not know what hit them when this happens.
The Government would probably end up with less hazard to their MPs if they changed bail laws, because it will not be possible to conclusively say if someone released on bail would have got bail under the old law. But three strikes is about certainty, and there will be no dodging the bullets.
Another reason repealing three strikes is stupid, is because it will free up almost no prison space. First strikers do not server longer under this law – only second and third strikers. At best there are probably only 100 to 150 more people still in prison due to the three strikes law. Compare that to the almost 2,000 more due to the bail changes.
In fact as the reoffending rate of strike offences is down since the three strikes law passed, it is possible repealing the law could increase the prison population.
So in summary MPs who vote to repeal three strikes will:
- Be voting against a very popular piece of legislation with both Labour and NZ First voters
- Be making a law change that will allow victims to conclude with certainty that their assailant was only able to beat/rape them because of this law change
- Will make almost no difference to the overall prison population
You would have to have an electoral death wish to vote for it.