A ‘Safer Kiwi Communities’ policy package announced by New Zealand First today includes a suite of substantial policies ranging from introducing harsher penalties for serious and violent crimes, protection of first responders, changing the way courts sentence offenders, to investing in prisoner rehabilitation programmes.
“Creating ‘safer kiwi communities’ can only occur with robust and balanced justice and corrections systems. These polices announced today will go a long way to ensuring the fundamental focus of our justice and corrections systems is the ultimate safety and protection of our communities, says Leader of New Zealand First Winston Peters.
“That is why, in government New Zealand First will:
Train and fund 1,000 new additional front line police officers
“New Zealand First will increase police numbers by another 1,000 officers over the next three years. This increase is on top of the more than 2,200 new officers we trained this term. It means that Police will have the numbers to be able to continue to focus on dealing with serious crimes such as increasing gang violence and the scourge of methamphetamine.”
“The previous National government chronically underfunded Police, effectively freezing the Police budget while allowing officer numbers to drop. This government inherited an underfunded and undermanned police force and these additional 1,000 officers will ensure the gains we have made this term are maintained and continue to protect our communities. This is on top of the 2,200 new officers already trained this term - New Zealand First negotiated for 1,800 new frontline officers in the coalition agreement and have exceeded that by more than 400, said Mr Peters.
Pass the ‘Protection for First Responders’ legislation
“New Zealand First will also ensure government introduces a mandatory minimum six month prison sentence for anyone who seriously assaults a police officer, or any other first responder. First responders such as police, ambulance, corrections officers, and emergency room nurses have had an alarming increase in numbers of attacks on them.
“It’s a sad state of affairs when those whose jobs are to protect our community are attacked on a daily basis. New Zealand First will draw a line in the sand and protect our protectors, said Mr Peters.
Introduce ‘Coward Punch’ law
“We will also bring in new legislation that will address the increase in gutless acts of violence on our streets, said Mr Peters.
“A new ‘coward punch’ law will be introduced which will ensure harsh penalties for those found guilty of the offence - with a mandatory minimum six months in prison for throwing a coward punch and injuring, and a mandatory minimum 8 years in prison for throwing a coward punch causing death.”
Introduce ‘Priority of Interests in Sentencing’ legislation
“Victims have been forgotten in our offender-centric justice system. We will establish a sentencing mechanism that puts the priority for victims first and foremost.
“New Zealand First will introduce legislation that ensures when courts are sentencing or otherwise dealing with offenders, they must prioritise the needs of the victim first, then the community second, then last, the offender.
“Too often sentences for offenders are reduced for reasons such as ‘culture reports’ or personal circumstances and the victims are too often ignored, said Mr Peters.
Introduce ‘Degrees of Murder’ legislation
“Life must mean life. A ‘Degrees of Murder’ regime will be introduced to ensure that those who commit the most violent and premeditated crimes will be given appropriately substantial sentences. The highest degree of murder will carry a minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.
“The regime will also see other degrees of murder carrying higher minimum non-parole periods than the current ten years. This system will give more flexibility and more accuracy to the charges that are laid against an offender, increase the chance of a successful prosecution, and ensure adequate and appropriate sentences are applied, said Mr Peters.
Increase investment in prisoner driver-licence and work-ready training
“The best indicator of a successful corrections system is when we release offenders who don’t reoffend.
“That is why New Zealand First will provide prisoners with the tools they need to reintegrate with society so they can seriously set their life on the right track, said Mr Peters.
“We will increase funding to successful initiatives such as the Howard League's ‘Unlicenced Offenders’ driving programme, the ‘Northland Region Correction Facilities Offender Training and Employment’ programme which are already testaments to this.
“For many prisoners, a driver’s licence is a material good that will help get them into a job. And with more workshop-based courses at correction facilities, we can give them the skills they need to build productive and crime-free lives.”
Rt Hon Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First
The ‘Protection for First Responders Bill’ is an NZFirst Member’s Bill that was drawn 17 May 2018 and passed First Reading on 10 December 2019. The Bill was referred back to the Justice Select Committee on 22 July 2020. The bill makes three key changes;
- Mandatory Minimum 6 months for injuring a first responder with intent
- Includes Emergency Health staff and Fire Officers into the Summary Offences Act, which provides up to 6 months prison for lower assaults.
- Defines First Responders as a Police Officer, Fire and Emergency Officer, Corrections Officer, or Emergency Health worker such as Ambulance Officer or Emergency Room Nurse or Doctor.
The Coward Punch legislation aims to implement a sentencing regime that provides three offences;
- Minimum mandatory imprisonment of 8 years for killing using a coward strike or maximum life imprisonment
- Minimum mandatory imprisonment of 5 years for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm or maximum 14 years
- Minimum mandatory imprisonment of 6 months for injuring with intent or maximum 10 years.
Sentencing (Priority of Interests in Sentencing) Amendment Bill will insert a clause 6A into the Sentencing Act to ensure the court must give weight to promoting the following interests, while sentencing or otherwise dealing with an offender, in order of priority:
- The interests of the victim first,
- The interests of the community second, and
- The interests of the offender last.
This list priority is directly applied to the principles of the sentencing act.
Degrees of Murder regime aims to implement a sentencing regime:
Murder in the first degree:
- Intentional murder that is premeditated
- Life imprisonment with no parole
Murder in the second degree:
- Intentional murder that is not premeditated
- Life sentence with 20 years minimum non-parole
- Intentional killing driven by circumstance “crime of passion”
- Causing death by criminal negligence
- Murder in the first degree:
Successful prisoner training programmes:
- Howard League’s driving programme https://www.nzhowardleague.org.nz/driving/
Northland Region Correction Facility Offender Training & Employment https://www.corrections.govt.nz/about_us/getting_in_touch/our_locations/northland_region_corrections_facility