INDEPENDENT NEWS

BUDGET 2001: Making New Zealand safer

Published: Thu 24 May 2001 02:53 PM
24 May 2001
Making New Zealand safer
Justice Minister Phil Goff and Corrections Minister Matt Robson today announced an extra $22 million as the first instalment for reforms to ensure the public will be better protected from dangerous offenders.
The money, to be spent over four years, is part of the estimated $90 million to be provided for the new Sentencing and Parole regime. The remainder of the amount will be dealt with in future budget rounds.
$m 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05
New operating 5.500 5.300 3.579 2.785
New capital 4.400
The new funding will be added to the budget of the Corrections Department. The Government announced the new Sentencing and Parole Bill in March and it is expected to be passed early next year.
Dangerous offenders sentenced after the new legislation comes in will no longer be eligible for automatic release after serving two thirds of a prison sentence. Inmates guilty of the worst types of murder will have to wait much longer before becoming eligible for parole.
Automatic release after two-thirds of a sentence will be abolished by the Sentencing Act. Final release date will now be the sentence expiry date with an additional six-month supervised transition back into the community possible.
The age at which someone can be sentenced to preventive detention is to be lowered from 21 to 18. A greater range of sentences will be available for murder, with the minimum non-parole period for the worst types of murder increasing from 10 to 17 years.
A New Zealand Parole Board will replace the present Parole Board and District Prisons Boards. Its fundamental principle will be that the protection of the public is the paramount consideration for determination of any case. It will be able to keep offenders who pose an undue risk to public safety in prison right up to final release date.
Criminals guilty of the worst offences may have to wait up to five years between applications to the Parole Board for release, instead of being considered annually.
At the other end of the spectrum, courts will have more discretion in sentencing. Inmates will be eligible for earlier release where they show contrition, deal with the reasons for their offending and do not pose a risk to public safety.
The Ministers said the reforms ensured the public would be kept safer.
“Offenders who pose the greatest risk can be kept away for longer.”
The reforms are matched with victim support initiatives and new rehabilitative programmes that make the public safer by treating some of the causes of offending.
Corrections Minister Matt Robson announced the Government will spend $7 million over four years on programmes targeted at repeat disqualified drivers and treating alcohol and substance abuse. [$2.2m in 2001-02, $1.8m in 2002-03, and $1m in 2003-04 and 2004-05.]
The funding follows recommendations in About Time, the recently released Department of Corrections report on reducing the need for imprisonment, Mr Robson said.
"The funding will be used to assess and treat alcohol and substance abuse which strongly contributes to criminal behaviour. It will also be used to assess and treat behavioural problems that lead to repeat serious traffic offending.
"Treating the causes of crime means there will be less offending and, as a result, fewer victims."
Justice Minister Phil Goff announced $500,000 a year of new funding to enhance and maintain services to victims of crime by local victim support groups.
The funds will be used to increase the number of professional staff employed by local victim support groups, and to implement improved case management and monitoring systems.
"Increased funding for victim support is accompanied by changes in the Sentencing Act to introduce a strong presumption in favour of reparation. There will be an extension of reparation to allow payments for physical harm, and not just property loss or damage and emotional harm. Victims' views will be given greater prominence by courts,” Mr Goff said.
ENDS

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