Brian Neeson National Corrections Spokesperson
17 October 2001
Govt ignores NZ on violent crimes
National's Corrections spokesman Brian Neeson today called on the Government to support his Degrees of Murder Bill. Mr
Neeson was speaking in the debate on the select committee's report on his Bill in Parliament tonight.
"New Zealanders have demonstrated an overwhelming desire for fundamental changes to the sentencing of violent criminals.
"Brutal murderers like Gresham Marsh and Leith Ray were sentenced to life in 1994 but under the current system they'll
be out after just ten years behind bars. Compare that with armed robber Kevin Polwart who will also serve ten years
behind bars. The sentence for violent, brutal murderers is unacceptable to most New Zealanders.
"At the other end of the scale is the Albury-Thompson case where the jury convicted her of manslaughter as they felt the
minimum sentence for murder was too tough given the circumstances of the case.
"My Degrees of Murder Bill will categorise murder into three separate offences - murder in the first, second and third
degree. The major change to the sentencing regime would be that life means life for first degree murderers.
"Degrees of Murder would ensure the punishment fits the crime. It would also give the public the right to participate
more fully in the judicial system by giving the jury a portion of the responsibility for sentencing. The jury will not
only decide if a person is guilty of a crime but 'how guilty'.
"This Bill would give the justice system some flexibility so people can be convicted for the crime they have committed
but the sentence imposed will reflect the degree of the crime. I have received wide public support for this Bill. The
Government's lack of support shows how out of touch they are with New Zealanders when it comes to being tough on crime,"
Mr Neeson said.