Revised Three Strikes Bill introduced

Repeat offending is not acceptable, Nicole McKee says. Photo: RNZ
Repeat offending is not acceptable, Nicole McKee says. Photo: RNZ
The coalition government's revised Three Strikes Bill has been introduced to Parliament.

Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee said today the government has made it clear that repeat serious violent or sexual offending will not be tolerated.

"The Three Strikes law will help keep New Zealanders safer while sending a strong message to those who keep committing these serious crimes - repeat offending is not acceptable and they [offenders] will face increasingly serious consequences."

McKee said it would help protect victims and communities by keeping violent criminals off the streets.

The legislation will restore key features from the sentencing legislation that was repealed in 2022 so offenders will be warned of the consequences of re-offending at the first strike.

A second strike will see them denied parole and a third strike will see the offender serve the maximum penalty without parole.

Tweaks to the old legislation include setting out principles and guidance to help the court's application of the law.

Other changes include:

  • Adds the new strangulation and suffocation offence to more than 40 serious violent and sexual offences covered by the previous regime
  • Focuses on serious offending by applying the Three Strikes law only to sentences above 24 months
  • Imposes appropriately lengthy non-parole periods for people who commit murder, of 17 years at second strike and 20 years at third strike
  • Provides some judicial discretion to avoid manifestly unjust outcomes and address outlier cases
  • allows a limited benefit for guilty pleas to avoid re-traumatising victims, and to reduce court delays

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith said there has been a lot of resistance to the original legislation, but the coalition is bringing back an amended approach with important differences.

"Fundamentally, we hold the view that there needs to be tougher consequences for our worst, repeat, serious offenders."

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith. Photo: RNZ
Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith. Photo: RNZ
Goldsmith said on average, the people that had Three Strikes under the previous regime had 70 convictions, "so they're causing real damage in our society and that's why we want to have real consequences for those crimes".

When asked about the lack of engagement with iwi on the issue, Goldsmith acknowledged the need to make progress swiftly.

"Māori are more likely to be the victims of crime as well, and so they've got as much interest as anyone else - in fact more - in ensuring we have real consequences."

Goldsmith said it was part of the coalition's broader justice response to restore law and order, and one target was to reduce the number of victims of serious crime.

"The punitive side of it - tougher penalty and tougher consequences - is one part of it.

"It's not the only part, cos we're also engaged in ensuring we have better rehabilitation services, we've got better dealing with addictions, so there's a whole host of things that feed into what we hope will be better outcomes."

Goldsmith added it was appropriate for Parliament to set the law around sentencing.

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ
Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ

Concern about 'unfair outcomes'

Labour leader Chris Hipkins agreed politicians should determine the maximum sentences available to judges, but did not think they should be involved in deciding where individual cases ended up on that spectrum.

"If you look at the evidence from around the world where governments impose mandatory minimums on the judiciary you are more likely to end up with unfair outcomes from sentencing.

"We have an independent judicial process for a reason, and it does mean that you end up with more equitable and fairer outcomes from the judicial system than if you have politicians deciding on sentences."

Hipkins said punishing crime after the fact did not lead to fewer victims.

"There's pretty clear evidence that shows that once someone's in that cycle ... pattern of criminal offending, you end up with more victims.

"What we have to be focused on is how do we break that cycle, rather than how do we continue to strengthen the cycle so that we get more of the same."

The Bill will have its first reading later this week before going to the Justice Committee.