13 Sep 2023

ACT leader David Seymour promises tougher sentences for serious crimes in law and order policy

5:50 pm on 13 September 2023

ACT leader David Seymour has promoted the party's law and order policy in a media standup outside a dairy ram-raided in April.

While it unveiled no new details, the policy document released today collects all ACT's law and order policies in one convenient place.

Last month the party pledged to make changes to judges' sentencing principles, including removing all consideration of a convict's cultural background, if elected.

Seymour said ACT would ensure tougher sentences for serious crimes, increase the capacity of the prison system and put victims back in the centre of the justice system.

The policies promised to disqualify gang members from holding a firearms licence, and impose tougher sentences for crimes on vulnerable workers.

Seymour said it aimed to restore balance to a system that was too focused on criminals instead of victims.

"A compassionate government looks to protect those who might find themselves to be victims first, and then aims to rehabilitate offenders. That is what ACT is proposing.

"ACT believes protecting the safety and property of New Zealanders is the government's first and most important job."

ACT's law and order policy:

  • Reform the reparations system so the Crown faces the burden of risk of slow reparation payments or nonpayments rather than the victims of crime.
  • Impose tougher sentences for crimes on vulnerable workers, amending the Sentencing Act so that judges must take into account the fact that a serious violent offence occurred against a worker during their course of work as an aggravating factor, and removing the role of cultural reports in sentencing decisions.
  • Clarify that judges are to impose the least restrictive outcome that does not impose a disproportionate risk to the community, and that they must not only consider the historical impacts of the offending on the victim, but also consider any present risks the sentence may impose on the victim.
  • Invest $1 billion to build an additional 500 prison beds
  • Improve the information available to judges on the risks of re-offending
  • Reinstate Three Strikes
  • Show a clear pathway of consequences for young offenders, from instant practical penalties to ankle bracelets
  • Fund the construction of 200 new youth justice beds managed by Corrections.
  • Repeal changes that came into force in 2019 that expanded the youth justice jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds.
  • Instantly disqualify gang members from holding a firearms licence and increase police power to seize assets of gang members found with illegal firearms.
  • Use Inland Revenue's powers to investigate gang members' incomes.
  • Require individuals to complete skills or rehabilitation programmes prior to being considered for parole.
ACT leader David Seymour on law and order

David Seymour with ACT candidate Parmjeet Parmar. Photo: RNZ / Calvin Samuel

Seymour told a media briefing "more people should be in prison", adding that he wants to see the prison population return to the level of 2017 before Labour embarked on its policy of reducing the number of prisoners.

"Our attitude is that the only person responsible for the crime is the person carrying out the crime," he said, saying other external factors such as poverty and mental health should not be used as excuses.

When those reasons were put forward they only encouraged bad behaviour, Seymour said.

"I think it's a mistake to say offending can be justified by the circumstances," he said, adding that letting more people out of prison has not been successful.

He said it was not useful to look overseas such as to the US and Scandinavia because there were many factors within countries that needed to be considered and they mightn't apply in New Zealand when it came to law and order.

Seymour defended his party's plan to spend $1 billion adding 500 places to the country's prisons.

He said the policy included measures that will help rehabilitate prisoners.

"If you want early release, leaen to read, get a driver's licence and get started on a trade.

"If you can show that you've made that progress then suddenly you change the whole culture of prisons towards prisons being places of self-improvement, being primary schools of basic literacy and life skills instead of universities for crime."

He was insistent 17-year-olds should go back into the adult justice system.

"If an offender is old enough to steal a car and drive it through a dairy they're old enough to wear an ankle bracelet that can be used to ensure they don't break curfew and go off to commit more crimes."

Younger offenders will be sent to a youth justice facility separate from adults but run by Corrections instead of Oranga Tamariki.

They wouldn't have cellphones or KFC "and it won't be easy to escape".

They should also suffer immediate consequences after committing crimes. A police officer should be able to tell the offender to clean up their damage at the scene of a crime and apologise to the business owner, he said.

Seymour said his party's policies swing the justice system in favour of victims.

He defended his party's re-announcement of its policies.

"These are policies that ACT has been rolling out as a result of hearing New Zealanders' concerns and hopes, and we've formulated them, we've tested them with the community, we've put them all together in one place.

"If you're threatening to punish us for having put out a wide array of policies over the three years instead of coming up with stuff at the last minute then we're guilty as charged.

"We are releasing a comprehensive suite of policies in one go, that put together form an agenda for a future government to restore the balance between people who are trying to make an honest buck and people that deserve tougher consequences."

Before the briefing he spent time with a dairy owner whose dairy was ram-raided in April. The premises suffered $50,000 in damage, his insurance premiums have doubled and he was fearful the fog cannon he had installed would not be activated in time if he was attacked again.

ACT leader David Seymour on law and order

Dairy owners watch David Seymour's law and order policy announcement. Photo: RNZ / Calvin Samuel

Recent polls suggest National and ACT could form a government together, but National might also have to rely on NZ First - who ACT has ruled out.

ACT has floated the possibility of a new kind of governing arrangement if National refused to cooperate during post-election negotiations - a confidence-only deal, which would require the larger party to seek ACT's backing for all government spending - or "supply" - decisions on a case-by-case basis.

National is downplaying the prospect of entering into a confidence-only governing arrangement and has also begun ruling out - or in some cases merely rejecting - ACT policies.

ACT released its housing policy on Sunday which promised to allow builders to opt out of council building consents, scrap the reformed Resource Management Act and use building insurance as an alternative to building consent authorities.

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