Kiri Allan says National’s ‘soft on crime’ rhetoric is ‘abhorrent’

Newly appointed Justice Minister Kiri Allan denounced comments that the government is “soft on crime”, calling the rhetoric “abhorrent”.

Allan said such comments ignore the complexity of the crime and in reality the government has made no changes to penalties or penalties.

However, the opposition says it is doing just that by repealing the Three Strikes Act, which is the subject of further debate in the House this week.

Three Strikes was a creation of the Act party in 2010 when the party supported a nationally led government.

Legislation imposes increasingly severe penalties for each offense of “strike” committed.

By the final “strike”, the maximum sentence applicable without parole must be pronounced, unless the court considers that it would be manifestly unfair to do so.

This Labor term has introduced legislation to repeal the law, and it will be debated further in the House this week.

Allan told the Herald the law was a good example of a “gut reaction” to crime, something she said she was committed to avoiding in her new role.

“There was no evidence that it worked. It had been tested in places like California and was deemed a dismal failure.

“He saw an increase in incarceration, he didn’t see a reduction in crime or act as a deterrent.”

Allan said, however, National’s comments that the government was “soft on crime” were “odious.”

“The terminology is odious. It doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help us.

“We’re looking at a whole-of-government approach to crime and looking at someone’s life and intergenerational cycles.”

Allan said that despite everything, the government had not made any changes to the Sentencing Act that would make the penalties different from those of previous governments.

“We’ve increased resources for the front lines since we arrived in 2017. We have 1400 new cops on the ground, and that’s going to increase to 1800 by the end of this year. So I have to push back and push back hard there- above [soft-on-crime rhetoric].”

National Party justice spokesman Paul Goldsmith. Photo/Mark Mitchell

National Party justice spokesman Paul Goldsmith said comments that the government was not changing the sentencing regime when repealing Three Strikes were “misleading”.

“Weirdly, the Labor Party has come to the conclusion that despite the increase in violent crime and gang intimidation, the real problem is that we are being too tough on our serious repeat offenders and that Three Strikes needs to go.

“Despite what the new justice minister says, the government is changing the sentencing regime, it is committed to reducing the sentences of our worst repeat offenders and it is soft on crime.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the Green Party has called for the repeal legislation to be taken further. Justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman wants to see amendments to reassess the sentences handed down under the three strikes legislation.

Allan said they were not considering any changes to the bill, which passed its first two readings.

She said reassessing sentences would require retroactive legislation, which “is not constitutional best practice”.

“It’s not something I’m considering at this point.”

Allan, who is trained as a lawyer, was appointed to the justice portfolio last week after former minister Kris Faafoi announced his resignation.

She becomes the first Minister of Justice with Māori whakapapa, a title she was not immediately aware of.

“I was surprised to learn this, but incredibly privileged to play the role.

“I want to see fewer young people born into poverty or into intergenerational trauma, into traumatic environments that are usually the first to end up in the justice system.

“And those issues have a disproportionate impact on Maori. But I don’t want that for just any child, I don’t care what race they are.

“What matters to me is that we, the state, can provide so much holistic support to these young people because we know their trajectory.”

Allan said while there were currently “spikes” in organized crime activity, causing anxiety among New Zealanders, she did not want to make a “gut reaction”.

“We saw 24 incidents of gun violence. We’re not used to seeing this stuff here.

“Instead of just doing a knee-jerk reaction, he’s working with the police, to see if they have the tools to do the job. Looking at the regulatory tools.

“And we are taking all necessary measures to prevent continuous and harmful environments.

“The last thing I want to see is a 15-year-old kid raiding right now five years from now and showing up with a shotgun, pointing it at someone.”

Former justice minister Faafoi had come under pressure due to slow progress in broader justice reform and the introduction of hate speech legislation.

Allan said she was seeking advice on the status of the hate speech process and was “not opposed” to having it in place this term.

On broader reforms, she said she had “reviewed” various reports and would act on any advice.

She said there was a “huge investment” of more than $2 billion in the justice sector in this budget and she was committed to making progress in the sector.

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