Politics | Law and Order

Three Strikes Bill restored despite evidence punishment fails

Emmy Rākete Ngāpuhi Criminologist and PAPA Spokesperson on flaws of the three strikes law

The government has reinstated the Three Strikes Bill in its newest step to prioritise the restoration of law and order by being tough on crime.

As with the military-style boot camps, the bill uses a consequences model based on the ideology that punishment leads to change.

The reinstatement of the law will bring back the main features of the Three Strikes regime that was repealed in 2022.

Offenders will be warned of the consequences with the first strike, denied parole at the second strike, and will serve the maximum penalty without parole on the third strike.

Emmy Rākete, a criminologist and lecturer at the University of Auckland, says criminalisation doesn’t reduce crime or violence and evidence shows punishment doesn’t stop re-offending.

Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee says it sends a strong message to repeat offenders who will face increasingly serious consequences and keep “violent criminals” off the streets.

Rākete argues that this doesn’t address crime or prevent violence; it merely relocates it to jails, where violence is concentrated.

She says those incarcerated, often both victims and perpetrators, emerge more traumatised, which ensures all the social conditions that causes crime to occur.

Rākete is calling on the government to focus on addressing social conditions that enable violence.

New Zealand has the highest rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world, and victims of intimate partner abuse need to be able to leave their partners but can’t because they’re financially dependent and would be homeless in doing so.

The bill has been re-worked since the last three-strike law to:

  • add a new strangulation and suffocation offence to more than 40 serious violent and sexual offences covered by the previous regime;
  • focus on serious offending by applying the three strikes law only to sentences above 24 months;
  • impose lengthy non-parole periods for people who commit murder, of 17 years at second strike and 20 years at third strike;
  • provide some judicial discretion to avoid manifestly unjust outcomes and address outlier cases;
  • set out principles and guidance to help the court’s application of the new law; and
  • allows a limited benefit for guilty pleas to avoid re-traumatising victims, and to reduce court delays.

The bill will have its first reading in Parliament later this week before being referred to the justice committee.