Law and order
We understand that you wish to act immediately to improve the safety of New Zealand communities as the justice sector is a high priority for you. Your plan for the first 100 days includes seven key legislative commitments.
As a result of previous policies, New Zealand currently faces an unsustainable cost in the construction, operation, and wage cost of the infrastructure required by the criminal justice system (specifically prisons, legal aid, courts and police). For instance, for the foreseeable future, the Justice sector has the potential to consume large proportions of the operating and capital funding available to government. In addition, our incarceration rate has increased significantly over the past decade which raises social issues about whether prison is proving to be the optimal intervention and how far we would want to see this rate deviate from other developed countries.
Your proposals will have a fiscal cost and we would stress the following points:
- Targeting the policies to the most serious offenders and ensuring the policy direction does not reverberate to all offenders will be critical (most of the increase in incarceration rates in recent times has been for low-level offences). Costs in the Justice sector are, to some extent, driven by agents who act independently (the Police, the Judiciary and the Parole Board). It will be critical to ensure that these agents understand the targeted nature of the policy changes so they do not apply these policies more widely which would drive up fiscal costs.
- At the same time as implementing these policies, we would also suggest that the Justice sector be asked to report back to Ministers on ways in which costs can be reduced in other areas of the system (ie, offenders at the lower end of the seriousness scale). The intention here is to pay for the policies you wish to pursue and to unwind the significant fiscal pressures we are already experiencing in the sector on current policies. We recommend that high priority be given to:
- Targeted interventions to prevent serious and violent crime (including addressing the needs of victims of serious and violent crime).
- Reducing incarceration for low-level offences.
- Targeted interventions addressing Māori who make up 50% of the sentenced prison population (with high recidivism rates).
- Analysis of the areas of highest cost increases in the prison system.
- Developing understanding of how police activity contributes to fiscal costs.
- Reviewing policies relating to remand, length of sentence and prison operations (eg, double bunking, regional prisons policy, private management).
- Developing medium-longer term preventative measures, such as targeted interventions for children with severe and persistent behaviour disorder.
|Policy proposals||Treasury comment||Recommendations/implementation advice|
|Policies aimed at enhancing public safety:
Legislative programme relating to access to parole and bail.
There are significant potential costs to making wholesale changes to parole and sentencing regimes. We consider that targeted changes to parole are fiscally manageable. In order to be sustainable, these changes should be considered alongside a wider review of remand and sentencing guidelines.
There are a number of initiatives that could be introduced to reduce trial waiting times and overall remand numbers, after which it may be fiscally sustainable to consider changes to bail laws. These include:
|Introduce legislation to clamp down on criminal gangs and their drug trade||
||There is potential to focus on the proceeds of crime alongside money-laundering legislation required as a part of NZ's commitment to international agreements as a part of the Financial Action Task Force.|
|Introduce legislation to tackle increasing violent youth crime by bolstering the Youth Court with a range of new interventions and sentences||
||We consider that initiatives aimed at introducing new sentences for youth offenders should be based on robust evidence of effectiveness, and should be introduced through rigorously evaluated pilots.|
Policies aimed at victims:
Introduce legislation to compensate victims by levying criminals and putting the money into a Victims Compensation Scheme
New Zealand currently receives very high rankings on international comparisons for support provided to victims of crime.
You could consider alternatives to a levy based system, such as taxpayer funding (if administration costs are excessive).
A process which recognises victims' suffering may be as critical as compensation per se.