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Scaremongering Reaches New Low

Posted on 22 Apr 2009

The battle against ACT's proposed 'Three Strikes' law has intensified, with Justice officials, Te Puni Kokiri and various lobby groups issuing dire predictions of killings by persons facing a third 'strike' conviction to avoid apprehension and increased levels of family violence. These follow extravagant estimates of increased prisoner numbers, and massive extra costs.

"These alarmist predictions also occurred in California in 1994 when that state's 'Three Strikes' law was passed. Fifteen years later, facts have displaced fallacies. Homicide and robbery have decreased by 50 percent since 'Three Strikes' became law whereas California's population increased by 25 percent during the same period," ACT New Zealand Law & Order Spokesman David Garrett said today.

"This means that the real reduction in violent crime is actually much greater than 50 percent. Far from doubling, as predicted, the prison population has only increased by about 25 percent. The costs of implementing the policy are approximately a quarter of that predicted by the alarmists in 1994.

"A referendum seeking to weaken the law was roundly rejected by California voters in 2004. It was rejected overwhelmingly in districts primarily occupied by poor black and Hispanic people. These are the very people who are most affected by crime in their communities and who were benefiting the most from 'Three Strikes'. Those people could see first hand the effects of 'Three Strikes' on their communities.

"San Francisco liberals living in nice Victorian villas in districts where crime was low wanted to weaken the law - the people most affected by crime did not want a bar of it.

"It seems that those in New Zealand making alarming predictions are not at all interested in the clear evidence readily available of how 'Three Strikes' will actually work. All they are interested in is scaring the National Party into not supporting the policy - whatever the truth maybe.

"One can only wonder at the motives driving both officials and lobbyists such as Re-Thinking Crime & Punishment's Mr Kim Workman, who make unfounded and alarming predictions. Perhaps Mr Workman and officials should visit California and actually talk to people across the spectrum as I did in 2007," Mr Garrett said.


Cosgrove Has Jumped The Gun

Posted on 16 Apr 2009

ACT New Zealand Law & Order Spokesman David Garrett today corrected claims by Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove that the ACT Party unconditionally supports a separate prison system for Maori offenders.

"Maori recidivism rates are abysmal, and ACT is happy to explore avenues to improve them. The Maori habilitation concept is one of a number of ideas and, although we support it in principle, our support is conditional on the final proposal," Mr Garrett said.

"Mr Cosgrove is quoted as saying that the Maori prison concept would see pakeha rape offenders sentenced to prison, and Maori rape offenders sent straight to a separatist commune to go 'flatting with their mates'.

"This is ridiculous. Under the initiative, all prisoners - Maori or otherwise - would be treated equally when initially convicted and sentenced. Any inmate wanting a transfer to the Maori habilitation unit would have to earn a placement - by learning tikanga Maori and showing a willingness to rehabilitate - as Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples has clearly stated.

"ACT has always been committed to 'One Law For All', and this proposal doesn't breach that. We already treat prisoners differently according to their crime or particular circumstances. We already have Maori focus units. As I understand it, the Maori Party proposal will essentially extend the concept of a Maori focus unit.

"ACT is committed to making New Zealand safer and it would be very short-sighted not to consider all reasonable proposals for reducing crime. We will make our decision upon seeing the final detailed proposal - unlike Mr Cosgrove, who chose to simply slate the idea before he has full details of it.

"Mr Cosgrove now styles himself a champion of victims - this is a bit rich from a Party that, when in government, was more concerned that prisoners were nice and warm in underfloor-heated cells with a plasma TV," Mr Garrett said.


Drop in Murder Rate Statistics Questionable

Posted on 08 Apr 2009

ACT New Zealand Law & Order Spokesman David Garrett today questioned claims that murder rates have almost halved over the past 20 years given that homicide rates in New Zealand per 100,000 of population per annum increased from about 0.5 per 100,000 in 1970 to over two per 100,000 now.

"While observing that the reported drop in our murder rate is contrary to public perception, Victoria University Institute of Criminology Director Dr Michael Rowe and Police Statistics Manager Gavin Knight made a number of perceptive points together demonstrating how such a claim could itself be misleading and possibly incorrect," Mr Garrett said.

"Murder is just one subset of culpable homicide which also includes manslaughter and infanticide. All murders were culpable homicides, but not all culpable homicides are murders. This is not mere semantics - it would be possible for murder rates to have fallen while culpable homicides increased by an equal or even greater extent.

"The difference between manslaughter and murder is a question of intent. Whether an accused is found guilty of murder or manslaughter could at times be attributed to the quality of the lawyer involved.

"More sinister developments in recent years may also have led to, what lawyers call, ‘perverse verdicts’: verdicts of manslaughter when the evidence clearly established murder.

"Another factor often overlooked is advances in medical technology. A grievous injury suffered in a serious assault with intent may today be survivable, whereas the same injury suffered even 10 years ago would have been fatal.

"Mr Knight also cautioned that comparisons with past rates of any crime - including murder - were problematic because definitions may have changed over time. For example conspiracy to murder and attempting to murder had all been included in the offence type 'murder' since 1994. It is uncertain how such offences had been treated in the past," Mr Garrett said.


Garrett Welcomes Workman's Support

Posted on 07 Apr 2009

ACT New Zealand Law & Order spokesman David Garrett today thanked Rethinking Crime and Punishment's Kim Workman for pointing out that only ACT's 'Three Strikes' law would have saved 78 murder victims had it been in place at the time they were killed.

"Mr Workman has pointed out the differences between the original ACT version of 'Three Strikes' and that of National - which would NOT have saved those victims," Mr Garrett said.

"Mr Workman claims that none of the 423 prisoners currently serving life sentences would have been stopped by the 'Three Strikes' component of the Sentencing and Parole Bill. He is correct: the definition of violent crime was modified when 'Three Strikes' was incorporated into the current Bill.

"The Bill is currently before Select Committee and during this process the Bill can be further modified to better achieve its purpose or remove unintended consequences. The public has its say through submissions - and, contrary to Mr Workman's claims, I have not instructed anyone on what to say.

"Further, evidence for the pre-election claim that 77 victims - now 78 - would have been saved had my 'Three Strikes' law been in place when they were killed lies in two letters from the Corrections Department in response to questions asked by me under the Official Information ACT. I am happy to provide copies of those letters to Mr Workman or anyone who asks.

"Mr Workman is clearly aware that National's 'Three Strikes' is significantly different to ACT's. It is heartening to see that he is now trying to help ACT highlight that fact, and I welcome his support," Mr Garrett said.

Murderer's Bail Highlights Systemic Problems

Posted on 31 Mar 2009

ACT New Zealand Law & Order Spokesman David Garrett today urged the Government to undertake an immediate review of bail laws following yesterday's sentencing of Haiden Davis for the murder of Augustine Borrell.

"Bail laws in New Zealand are a disgrace - having breached bail twice in the past while on bail following charges for aggravated robbery, Davis was bailed again when charged with the murder of an innocent teenager," Mr Garrett said.

"To make matters worse, Augustine Borrell's parents - who were given no say over whether or not their son's killer was released - were then informed that Davis was to be bailed to an address just minutes away from their home.

"Augustine's mother has reported that she had to drive past the house where Davis lived in order to drop her children to school - her rights, and those of her family, were less important than an alleged killer's.

"Further, Davis was not closely monitored while on bail - allowing him to breach his conditions to meet with a key witness in the case against him. With such appallingly negligent management of Davis' bail, Augustine Borrell's father was justified when he said: 'first my son's life is taken, if that wasn't bad enough, I'm getting my nose rubbed in it'.

"This case highlights the myriad of serious failures that exist with our bail laws. They've been through enough and there is more to come - they shouldn't have salt rubbed into the wound.

"This failure is made all the worse by the unusual step of sentencing Davis immediately upon his being found guilty. This has denied the Borrell family the right to make victim impact statements before sentencing. Victims have few enough rights - making a statement prior to the sentencing of someone who has killed their relative is an important part of the healing process," Mr Garrett said.