26 Nov 2019

National will 'send much stronger signals' to judges on sentences - Mitchell

From Checkpoint, 6:09 pm on 26 November 2019

National has revealed it would expect judges to hand out tougher sentences if it's in power, even though the judiciary is an independent part of the democratic system, and should not be swayed by a government.

Among the party's law and order ideas, released on Tuesday in a discussion document, is a proposal for a new armed strike force to "harass" gangs.

It is modelled on Australia's 'Strike Force Raptor' squad. National's justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell told Checkpoint if National gets into power, law and order will be done differently.

On criminal sentencing, he said National is proposing cumulative sentencing.

"We want more flexibility around that because sometimes concurrent sentencing isn't fair, it doesn't actually reflect the seriousness of the offending," Mr Mitchell told Checkpoint.

But judges can already decide whether a sentence should be cumulative or concurrent.

Mr Mitchell said National wants to "send much stronger signals to the judiciary around that."

"Our criminal justice system does respond to the government of the day, and the signals that they've send, without a doubt.

"And we're seeing that right now. We've seen an increase in gang numbers, we're seeing a reduction in prosecutions being brought.

"That is what happens. So if we come into government, we're going to be seen in a very clear signal to our justice system, that we've got a big focus on gangs, and we're going to disrupt them, we're going to harass them, we're going to try and dismantle them as much as we can next year.

"And we hope that the justice system will respond to that."

In response, Justice Minister Andrew Little said: "This is an outrageous slur on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers, from Mr Mitchell."

The proposed squads will have capabilities including forensic, fraud analysis, carrying out search warrants or prosecution files, "right through to the front line, kicking the doors in at 3am, recovering stolen property and firearms, and preventing crime," Mr Mitchell said.

"We're going to have big squads that are going to be operating seven days a week 24/7, they can go anywhere in the country. And their whole focus is quite simply disrupting and targeting games and organised crime.

"We want to put so much pressure on [gangs] that they want to leave a life of crime, they want to actually sit down and reflect and realise that society is saying that we are not going to accept the way that you behave anymore."

Mr Mitchell told Checkpoint 'Strike Force Raptor' will be a circuit-breaker for police.

"In New South Wales they call it 'Raptor'. That's not the name of the unit we'll propose next year.

"You would definitely have armed officers as part of that unit without a doubt."