7 Oct 2020

NZ First policy proposes to prioritise victims, change sentence terms for murderers

4:29 pm on 7 October 2020

New Zealand First has announced its Safer Kiwi Communities policy package, with a mix of new - and old - election pledges.

Winston Peters at an election campaign event in Taupō, 17 Sept 2020

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

New in the package was its proposed "priority of interests in sentencing" legislation, which NZ First says will "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," party leader Winston Peters says.

"Too often sentences for offenders are reduced for reasons such as 'culture reports' or personal circumstances and the victims are too often ignored".

It would also introduce degrees of murder regime to "ensure that those who commit the most violent and premeditated crimes will be given appropriately substantial sentences".

The highest degree of murder would carry a minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole. Other degrees of murder would carry higher minimum non-parole periods than the current 10 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," Peters says.

That policy pledge is one of two remits that failed at the NZ First party conference in October 2019.

Included in the package were a range of policy settings the party has already detailed.

A plan to train and fund 1000 new frontline police officers was revealed at NZ First's campaign launch in July.

More funding for prisoner rehabilitation programmes was pledged in September.

A bill to impose tougher penalties on offenders who attack first responders and Corrections' staff has already been shelved by Parliament, after reaching its third reading in July. It was a members bill from NZ First MP Darroch Ball, but the party is now pledging to pass the legislation if re-elected.

NZ First would also introduce the "coward punch" law, which would "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 eight years in prison for throwing a coward punch causing death".

Peters has been discussing the coward punch law since at least 2016.

Labour responds

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says the Sentencing Act already has provisions for violent crime.

"Our sentencing legislation already allows judges to take into account for instance heinous violent crimes against those who are our first responders, and so those provisions exist in our law.

"When it comes to police numbers, very proudly we have increased police numbers by over 1800, and we will keep increasing the number of police that we have."

She says Labour would not support the protection of first responders bill as it is in its current form.

"We saw issues with the current version, at this stage I would say we'd want to take a look at how it was panning out."

She says Labour does not support mandatory minimum sentences.

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