The government has passed its bill repealing the three strikes law, which automatically hands maximum sentences to criminals who commit three serious crimes.
Labour MP Kiri Allan during the General Debate Photo: VNP / Phil Smith
The Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill passed this afternoon with the support of the Labour, Green and Māori parties, with National and ACT opposed, 77 to 43.
An evidence brief supplied by Corrections, Police and the Ministry of Justice found there was no substantial evidence on the effect of such a law, either domestically or overseas.
“Based on the data alone, there is no distinct indication that the three strikes legislation is deterring individuals from committing qualifying offences,” it said.
Judges have considerable discretion in sentencing offenders and strive for consistency, but critics worried the law could force judges to pass extremely harsh sentences for offences which would otherwise have been given little prison time.
Minister of Justice Kiri Allan said it was important to note serious and repeat offenders would still be held to account.
“All of the same measures that are required by the three strikes regime will still be available to judges once the repeal takes effect,” she said.
“In effect, what the repeal does is to return discretion back to the judiciary who are best placed to respond appropriately to repeat offending on a case-by-case basis.”
National’s Paul Goldsmith said it would reduce the prison sentences that the worst repeat criminals would face.
“Our focus is on the victims of crime, we want to reduce the number of victims of crime. We want to see fewer families torn asunder by violent crime, by gun crime, by the sorts of things that make New Zealanders feel unsafe in their own homes,” he said.
He said there were other factors in the increase in violent crime.
Elizabeth Kerekere said the Greens supported the repeal on the basis that three strikes led to punitive, rather than restorative, justice.
ACT championed the law in 2010, and justice sspokesperson Nicole McKee said the legislation needed to be in place to help curb crime.
“Violent crime is out of control and three strikes has done its bit to keep the worst of the worst locked up and away from participating in this free-for-all of vicious and violent crime that our communities are currently experiencing.”
She said the repeal was a disgrace and disrespectful for victims.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the law bound the hands of the judiciary and had made a racist justice system more racist, and less considerate of tikanga Māori.