New Zealand government introduces bill to repeal mandatory sentencing regime
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New Zealand government introduces bill to repeal mandatory sentencing regime

The New Zealand government on Thursday introduced the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill to repeal portions of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act of 2010, which together form the mandatory sentencing regime called the three strikes law.

The three strikes law was enacted to deter habitual offenders by threatening them with progressively longer mandatory jail sentences and to punish repeat offenders through a three-stage process. There are 40 eligible three strike offences, which include all severe violent and sexual offences that carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years or more.

According to the government’s general policy statement on the repeal bill, the three strikes law’s mandatory sentencing regime has led to unjust outcomes that disproportionately affect Māori people. The disproportionate effects on Indigenous people have generated concerns about conflicts with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. New Zealand’s Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said, “the three strikes regime is an anomaly in New Zealand’s justice system that dictates what sentences judges must hand down irrespective of relevant factors.”

The bill restores regular sentencing standards for strike offences by allowing the judge to choose a suitable sentence on a case-by-case basis. Further, the bill expressly disallows any claim to compensation with respect to the impacts of the three strikes law. In addition, it does not contain any transitional arrangements for those who are presently serving jail sentences for strike offences.

National Party spokesperson Simon Bridges disapproved of the bill and said, “at a time when gun & violent crime is at record highs, Labour is doubling down on its soft on crime approach with the repeal of the Three Strikes law. This will put public safety at risk.”