Three-strikes legislation for
criminal offenders took effect four years ago, amid claims it
would ''fill prisons''. Hamish McNeilly looks at the outcome
Dozens of sexual and violent offenders in Otago and Southland
have been given warnings under the three-strikes legislation.
When the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act came into effect on
June 1, 2010, it meant offenders convicted of any of 40
qualifying offences would receive a warning.
Those offences comprise all major violent and sexual offences
with a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment or more,
including murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, wounding
with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, sexual violation,
abduction, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery.
By the end of last month, 4340 offenders had been given a
first warning across New Zealand, while 37 offenders had been
given a second or final warning.
A final warning means those offenders must serve any future
prison sentence without parole.
Justice Minister Judith Collins confirmed no offenders who
had received a final warning had been reconvicted of one of
the serious sexual and violent offences covered by the Act.
''I'm satisfied that this Government's Sentencing and Parole
Reform Act 2010 [three strikes] is working as intended and
sends a strong message to offenders that parole is a
privilege, not a right.''
Ms Collins said claims the regime would ''fill prisons'' were
misguided, with the prison population remaining static.
However, the actual effect of the new regime on the prison
population was yet to be felt because only a small number of
offenders (37) were on their final warning, hence no
offenders had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment
without parole, she said.
And her message for those offenders?''Under the law,
reoffending can have very serious consequences and offenders
would be wise to bear this in mind.''
She confirmed the Government had no plans to change the
Not so Act New Zealand which is campaigning for burglaries to
be included as a qualifying offence.
''Three strikes for burglary is also appropriate because a
disproportionate number of burglaries are committed by
professional burglars - criminals who have decided that
burglary is a crime that pays,'' Act leader Jamie Whyte said
in a speech this week.
University of Otago law lecturer Prof Kevin Dawkins said a
debate whether burglary should be included was one worth
having as ''it is a precursor''.
''Not all sexual offenders are burglars, not all burglars are
sexual offenders but many burglars graduate to sexual
He said it remained to be seen if the legislation was a
deterrent for hardened criminals.
In district and high courts across Otago and Southland, some
241 strikes (warnings) had been recorded, the bulk of those
from Invercargill (118) and Dunedin (96).