Three strikes law gone but not forgotten for many

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The repeal of the archaic three strikes law is welcome but it doesn’t go far enough, the Green Party says.

People who have been subject to a third strike should have their sentence reconsidered in full by a judge.

“The Greens have been pushing for the repeal of the grossly unfair three strikes law for a long time and we’re delighted it is finally happening. But anyone who has experienced the harmful effects of this law should have the chance to have their sentence reviewed,” says the Green Party’s justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman.

The Green Party tabled a supplementary order paper (SOP) in Parliament last week, which would amend the law to introduce a sentencing review process for those who have been affected by the three strikes law. But Labour didn’t allow this to be voted on, on the basis it was outside the scope of the Bill.

“The three strikes law is a hangover from National and ACT’s failed American-style approach to justice. Taking away the court’s ability to consider the circumstances of offending, public interest and even rehabilitation, was a shameful measure that past politicians used to look ‘tough’ regardless of the consequences for people’s lives.

“New Zealand needs a justice system that treats all people with humanity, dignity, and respect. Repealing three strikes is a step towards that but it is incredibly frustrating that the Government has not shown the courage to ensure that this law change addresses the harm already done.

“We know that three strikes has disproportionately impacted Māori, Pasifika, and other communities of colour, as well as those with mental health and addiction issues, and brain injuries.

“My proposed amendment would have ensured that anyone impacted by the three strikes law would not be forced to carry out an unjust sentence. Instead they would have been given the right to have their sentence properly considered by a judge.

“It is a simple step that could easily have been added to the legislation, ensuring that any new sentence is proportionate to the crime committed and offers the opportunity for rehabilitation. The amendment would also allow the court system to address discrimination or racial bias that may have contributed to in an inflated sentence under three strikes. I am disappointed that Labour is playing political games instead of engaging on this important issue.

“Fixing the justice system doesn’t stop at three strikes. Labour must now show courage in moving toward a system that addresses the causes of offending, including mental healthcare, addiction treatment, housing and liveable income support, while introducing a new pathway away from prisons,” says Golriz Ghahraman.

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