Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A shameful day for New Zealand

Today is a shameful day for New Zealand. Last night, the government's "three strikes" bill became law. The law violates the Bill of Rights Act [PDF], imposing disproportionately severe treatment or punishment and requiring judges to impose unjust sentences even in cases where a sentence where it is manifestly unjust to do so. It violates the ICCPR and Convention Against Torture, and is a threat to our international good name. It also utterly disconnects the severity of punishment from the severity of offending, while providing a strong incentive for hardened criminals to murder witnesses, police officers, and prison guards. The government was warned about all of this by its own Ministry of Justice, but they didn't want to know. Instead they have forced a bad law upon us, a law we will all have to live with the consequences of.

Meanwhile, there's a perfect example of the hyperbole around this law with David Garrett's claim today that it will reduce crime by 10 to 20 percent because "people cannot harm members of the public when they're in jail". To point out the obvious: offences covered by the law - broadly, the categories of abnormal sex, sexual affronts, sexual attacks, homicide, grievous assaults, serious assaults, kidnapping and abduction, and robbery - comprised only 7.5% of total offending in 2009. In order for crime to be reduced by the amount Garrett suggests, offending in these categories would have to be negative - a simple impossibility. But maths has never been Garrett's strong point, has it?