Mark Mitchell: Government’s soft on crime attitude hits a new low

Opinion 02/03/2020

By Mark Mitchell, National Party Justice Spokesperson, MP for Rodney.

The Government’s soft on crime attitude has hit an all new low.

For a start, Corrections released a prisoner on bail after he staged a hunger strike for 25 days. Instead of dealing with the offender inside prison, Corrections took the easy option.

As a result, we now have a recidivist offender with an extensive criminal record living in our community.

Corrections has set a dangerous precedent and has essentially opened the floodgates, what will prisoners try next to force Corrections’ hand?

What’s even worse is that the prisoner himself didn’t even think he should’ve been released.

What does that say about the state of our justice system under this Government?

This is just one example of the Government’s soft on crime attitude filtering down, and this time it’s Corrections reacting to it.

If releasing a prisoner on bail because he went on hunger strike wasn’t bad enough, then the Government introduced a Bill that will allow prisoners to vote.

Losing the right to vote is a consequence of serious offending, and National has been very clear that we will oppose any change to the law on this.

It’s difficult to be sentenced to prison, and you have to have committed serious crimes to get there.

Prisoners who have received sentences of up to three years aren’t petty criminals. They are people who have committed serious assaults, robberies, family violence and sexual offences.

Losing the right to vote is consistent with the loss of other freedoms when going to prison. Once offenders come out of prison and have re-joined society then they have this right returned to them.

Going to prison is a punishment, it should be treated as such. Instead this Government is intent on making it seem like a holiday, even releasing prisoners early if they become too difficult to deal with.

But with this sort of behaviour happening, it’s no wonder other criminals are feeling emboldened under the current Government.

We’ve seen a sharp increase in gang membership as well, since October 2017 almost 1600 more people have joined gangs, with this number continuing to grow.

We saw last year that drug dealers who could prove their addiction caused the crimes could receive a 30 per cent discount on their sentence.

If you commit a crime you shouldn’t get off easily.

This isn’t fair on victims. They haven’t asked to be put in this position and we should be putting them before criminals.

National has always been very clear, we unapologetically stand on the side of victims, and a National Government would ensure victims feel as though they have received justice.

It’s becoming obvious at the election this year there is a stark difference between a Labour, Greens, NZ First soft on crime Government clearly on the side of offenders, and a National Government that is tough on crime that puts victims at the heart of our justice system.

Mark Mitchell is National's Justice Spokesperson & MP for Rodney.