I was very pleased with the announcement earlier this week that the Government will not be going ahead with its proposal to scrap the three strikes law. This is because New Zealand First declined to support it in the face of widespread opposition from New Zealanders worried about the safety of our communities.
The Government has a laudable goal to reduce prison numbers by a third, but without a plan to combat serious crime it will only be able do that by letting more offenders out on our streets. Their original announcement to repeal the three strikes law was met with outrage by the public because it would compromise public safety, which should always be the primary concern.
National responded to public safety concerns by tightening up our bail laws in 2013 to make it harder for serious offenders to be granted bail, while the three strikes law gave judges the ability to put the worst offenders away for the maximum sentence without parole on their third conviction. This law is reserved for the most serious and recidivist offenders who shouldn’t be able to get away with committing more crimes against innocent New Zealanders.
Labour wanted to reverse these changes, blaming them for the increase in our prison population, but have been forced to see reason by National and NZ First, who previously campaigned on introducing three strikes legislation and stiffer punishments for serious offenders.
The truth is 98 per cent of people in our prisons are there for the most serious and violent crimes, including aggravated assaults, sexual violence, and murder. These are the people that the Government will let loose on our communities if it doesn’t ensure we have enough capacity in our prison system and if they had reversed the changes we made.
Their headline target to reduce the prison population by 30 per doesn’t stack up with a lack of new initiatives to reduce crime. The measure of success must be to reduce the number of victims, not the number of prisoners, and if we can do the former we will achieve the latter.
This Government has no plan to reduce crime. Its chaotic decision-making repeatedly ignores what is most important, and National won’t stand by and let them compromise the safety of New Zealanders.
- Simeon Brown is MP for Pakuranga