Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Man Who Would Put Things Right

Cuddling Up To Recidivist Criminals

Andrew Little, Minister of Justice in New Zealand, is committed to removing New Zealand's Three Strikes Law.  He calls it a total failure.  In so doing he is being disingenuous--and he knows it.  The NZ Three Strikes law was carefully crafted to ensure that it gradually came in effect over time, allowing offenders plenty of warning of the increasing penalties they faced if they continued to commit serious crimes.  

Moreover, the law as passed was scrupulous to ensure that judges had the right to override the law in the event of unintended outcomes.  But Little argues that the ineffectiveness of the law is proven by the fact that over eight years, it has not reduced crime one little bit, and no-one has received a third strike sentence.  He well knows that it the law was intended to come into force gradually and it is only now that our worst recidivist offenders are facing their final Third Strike, meaning a mandatory,  fully served sentence would be handed down.  But, says Little in a master stroke of duplicity, the fact that it has made no difference over eight years "proves" the law has failed.

This is like attempting to argue that a bridge being built across a canyon was manifestly a failure because no vehicle had crossed over in eight years, whilst leaving out the small matter that the bridge was still under construction
The controversial "three strikes" law will be repealed next year, Justice and Courts Minister Andrew Little says.  Little said the law, which mandates escalating punishments for repeat violent or sexual offenders, had not reduced crime rates and failed to act as an effective deterrent.

"It's been eight years since this got onto the statute books and it's not making a blind bit of difference. It's time to find something new, something different."  Little said he doubted offenders would consider their potential sentences before committing crimes so the law did not address the root of the problem.  "Criminals don't go around calculating what might happen as a consequence." [NZ Herald]
We can't wait to see what magic Minister Little is going to drag out of his top hat.  One thing is plain, Little is a big believer in preventing crime before it occurs.  The reason he is pinning his hopes on prevention is  due to a deeper religious and philosophical commitment--viz, that all evil is environmentally caused.  Evil does not come out of the heart of a man; it comes out of the social atmosphere.  Change that "atmosphere" and, hey presto crime will drop before our eyes.
A replacement to the law had not yet been discussed, Little said, but he stood by the Labour Party's promise to put more police officers on the streets and to support community programmes to "get on top of problems before they even become a problem".

"Our goal is to stop reoffending, that's the important bit. Too many people cycle through the system and banging people through prison clearly isn't working.  "We have one of the fastest growing prison populations in the Western world. It's been rising for 30 years, we made a commitment to reduce that and we want to make sure we're doing right by that."
In Little's book, recidivism is not in itself a crime.  Here, to be fair, lies a weakness in the penal code.  The "Three Strikes" approach to the law implies recidivism is a crime.  The penal code needs amending to make this explicit.  But this will never happen during Little's tenure as Minister of Justice.  For Little, repeated offending is manifestly not the fault of the recidivist.  It is the fault of the community, the environment, the police, socialisation agencies, parents, and schools.  All these are to blame.  Not the criminal.

Welcome to the coming Littlean Crime Wave.  But have no fear--we will have lots of "community programmes" in place to wipe away the mess and fix it all up. 

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