Submissions open on three strikes law; related justice reform updates

Thu 04 Jul 2024

Submissions are open on legislation that proposes to reinstate the previous three strikes law with some changes. Submissions are due 23 July 2024.

black and white photograph if the Beehive Parliament building

Submissions open on legislation to reinstate three strikes law

The Justice Select Committee is calling for submissions on the Sentencing (Reinstating Three Strikes) Amendment Bill.

Submissions are due 23 July 2024.

The Sentencing (Reinstating Three Strikes) Amendment Bill would reinstate the legislative regime for sentencing repeat serious offenders known as the three strikes law. This is an omnibus Bill that would amend the Sentencing Act 2002, the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003, the Evidence Act 2006, and the Parole Act 2002.

The legislation would cover 42 qualifying serious violent and sexual offences. The call for submissions highlights that the proposed legislation would:

  • "require that a sentence be served without parole for the second strike
  • carry the maximum penalty for the offence, served without parole, for the third strike
  • only apply to individuals aged 18 years or older at the time of offending."

In announcing the Bill, Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee noted that the Bill includes changes to the previous three strikes regime to make the law more workable. The Beehive media release highlights some of those changes, stating that the Bill:

  • "adds the new strangulation and suffocation offence to more than 40 serious violent and sexual offences covered by the previous regime;
  • focuses on serious offending by applying the three strikes law only to sentences above 24 months;
  • imposes appropriately lengthy non-parole periods for people who commit murder, of 17 years at second strike and 20 years at third strike;
  • provides some judicial discretion to avoid manifestly unjust outcomes and address outlier cases;
  • sets 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."

To learn more, listen to an RNZ interview with Associate Justice Minister McKee about the Bill. For a more detailed overview of the proposed changes see the full text of the Sentencing (Reinstating Three Strikes) Amendment Bill.

The Ministry of Justice Regulatory Impact Statement: Reinstating three strikes sentencing law (2024) highlights that the previous three strikes regime resulted in severely disproportionate sentences and that there is limited evidence that the previous three strikes regime reduced serious crime. The Regulatory Impact Statement recommended option stated "...on every measure, the reintroduction of three strikes will exacerbate existing issues including the over representation of Māori, Pasifika, and young offenders in the justice system." It further stated that:

"the Ministry of Justice prefers the status quo rather than a new three strikes regime due to:

80.1. lack of evidence that the proposal would be effective at addressing repeated serious violent offending or sustainably improving public confidence in the justice system,

80.2. risk of unintended consequences which have been observed in such systems internationally and in New Zealand’s own experience with the former regime,

80.3. known downsides such as cost and issues with consistency of legal obligations, including under the Treaty of Waitangi,

80.4. the current sentencing system already has the capability to respond to serious repeat offending, and

80.5. disproportionate impact of a three strikes regime on population groups, particularly disproportionately harmful impacts on Māori."

The Ministry of Justice Sentencing (Reinstating Three Strikes) Amendment Bill disclosure statement 65 (2024) states:

"Modelling by the Ministry of Justice indicates that most offenders sentenced under the law will be Māori. Claims in the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of adversely affected Māori are possible. Issues related to sentencing have been raised with the Waitangi Tribunal in Te Rau o te Tika – the Justice System Kaupapa Inquiry (Wai 3060).

No Māori groups or partners have been consulted or engaged on the policy underlying this Bill due to time constraints. Despite strong Māori interests, consultation has not been conducted as the introduction of the Bill has occurred at pace, because the Bill is a priority in the Coalition’s quarterly action plan.

The lack of consultation has not allowed for the development of alternatives which may better mitigate impacts of the three strikes regime on Māori. Aspects of the policy design, such as the qualifying threshold and manifestly unjust exceptions for all mandatory elements, may help mitigate impacts on Māori."

In 2022, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) provided information about the effectiveness at reducing crime of the previous three strikes legislation in Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill, Impact of the three strikes regime on rates of serious crime. MOJ noted that "...there is no consistent pattern to changing crime rates before and after the three strikes regime was introduced in 2010." More specifically, MOJ noted that:

"...there is no evidence for a reduction in the rates of recorded sexual assaults and serious assault offences subject to three strikes legislation since 2010 when the law was enacted. The recorded rate of sexual assaults has increased at a faster rate since 2010 than it did in the 10-year period up to 2010."

For more information, see the Newsroom article The new and (slightly) improved three strikes regime. Academics and lawyers have raised concerns about the Bill. See related media below for more information.

Related news: Updates on justice reforms

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith announced the Government's plans for additional sentencing reforms for the criminal justice system.

Children’s Minister Karen Chhour announced plans to introduce a new Young Serious Offender declaration. Under the planned law, a Youth Court judge will have the final say on declaring someone a Young Serious Offender. A young person would be eligible for the declaration if they are 14 to 17 years old at the time of offending, have had two offences punishable by imprisonment of 10 years or more proven in court and are assessed as being likely to reoffend, with previous interventions having proven unsuccessful. This legislation has not yet been introduced. Under the law currently, the government is progressing with a pilot military-style academy programme based at the youth justice facility in Palmerston North.

A group of more than 30 community organisations presented a petition calling on government to stop the Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill. The group are "...calling on political leaders to work across political differences and commit to the development of a cross-party accord on youth justice, one grounded in evidence and informed by the lived experience of tamariki, whānau and affected communities." The Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill is currently in select committee.

Related news

Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee announced plans for the Government's programme to reform firearms laws. She outlined 4 phases:

  • The Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Amendment Bill was introduced in March 2024. It is currently before the Justice Committee. Consultation on this bill closed in April 2024. The bill aims to strengthen the role of firearms prohibition orders and provide greater powers to search gang members for firearms.
  • Proposals related to regulation of shooting clubs is out for consultation among stakeholders. See more information in the Beehive media release Government to consult on regulation of shooting clubs and ranges and related media below.
  • Phase 3 has two components: review of the Firearms Registry announced in June 2024 and transferring the Firearms Safety Authority from Police to another government department.
  • Phase 4 will look at rewriting the Arms Act to modernise the law.

Related media

New boot camp pilot programme still in design phase, set to start end of July, RNZ, 04.07.2024

Boot camps are back, needed or not, RNZ, 04.07.2024

How Christopher Luxon’s law and order reforms line up with the evidence - Derek Cheng, NZ Herald, 29.06.2024

Explainer: The first changes to gun laws have been announced. Here’s how they’re supposed to increase public safety, NZ Herald, 29.05.2024

When it comes to our country’s children, evidence matters, Mana Mokopuna | Children & Young People's Commission media release, 28.06.2024

Three Strikes legislation introduced to parliament, RNZ, 27.06.2024

Try the youth crime approaches that work, Newsroom, 27.06.2024

Three Strikes makes its return: The controversial law explained, Re:News, 26.04.2024

Three Strikes Bill restored despite evidence punishment fails, Te Ao Māori News, 25.06.2024

Revised Three Strikes Bill proceeds to Parliament, RNZ, 25.06.2024

Gun law reform proposal process ‘non-democratic’ and ‘secretive’, excluded critics say, Stuff, 25.06.2024

Minister Breaks Promise - NZ Public Denied Consultation On Firearms Legislation Changes, Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand media release, Scoop, 24.06.2024

Boot camps for young offenders are back – the psychological evidence they don’t work never went away, The Conversation, 11.06.2024

'There's no evidence that three strikes reduces crime' - lawyers, RNZ, 23.04.2024

Will Three Strikes reduce crime? There’s a reason Christopher Luxon can’t point to evidence. It doesn’t exist, NZ Herald, 23.04.2024

Punitive responses to children won’t build safer communities – Chief Children’s Commissioner, Mana Mokopuna | Children & Young People's Commission media release, 23.06.2024

Three strikes law: Lawyers say repeat offenders 'need help not punishment', Newshub, 23.04.2024

Three Strikes law is set for a comeback: Does it actually work? (interview with Warren Brookbanks), The Front Page, 04.04.2024

Three Strikes: PM predicts number of offenders to be jailed, One News, 23.04.2024

Three strikes law: 'Ignorant legislation' or effective justice?, One News, 03.04.2024

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