Andrew Dickens: Is NZ soft on crime, or harsh on punishment?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Dec 2019, 4:11PM
(Photo / File)

Andrew Dickens: Is NZ soft on crime, or harsh on punishment?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Dec 2019, 4:11PM

Is this country soft on crime or are we harsh on punishment?

That was today’s debate after the sentencing of Christchurch teen Jayden Breakwell for killing a man while he was running from police in a car.

The 18 year old is to spend two years and eight months in jail. Some argued that wasn’t enough, others say it’s too much and the lag will only criminalise him more.

Personally I think it’s about right. His behaviour was callous, naive, immature, and reckless. His snivelling performance in court sickened me. And the others in the car who have not been charged seem to be as bad. This is a message handed out to all four in the car whose idiotic idea of a good time led to a good man being dead.  

It’s easy to be strong on punishment. Because no-one likes crime. And National is going to play that card this year.

Yet the immaturity of the teen is a concern and a time in jail consorting with the wrong types could further push him into a lawless life.

Say that sort of thing and then it’s easy to say you’re soft on crime and that sounds bad because, again, no-one likes crime.

It’s a subtle balancing act and subtlety is lost in politics. But being pragmatic in punishment is not being soft on crime.

This morning a man phoned talkback and talked about a relative who was jailed for petty theft to support a P habit. After he got out he failed to meet is probation requirements, again because of his P habits. 

He ended out sentenced to another two years in prison.  Another $200,000 in prison costs because the guy is a druggie loser. He is criminally disorganised.

Now on Friday, Andrew Little gave the go ahead to make the trial of the Alcohol and other Drug Treatment Courts in Auckland and Waitakere permanent. He also announced a new drug court in Hamilton. These are courts where people are first sentenced to get rid of their drug and alcohol habits before being sentenced for any criminal activity they did to support their drug habits. It's not easy to get into the programme. You've got to have potential.

Well, this was met by Simon Bridges with the obvious click bait response. He promptly accused the reports' authors and the Government of getting soft on crime.

Very rich, I thought, because the Alcohol and other Drug treatment Court pilot programme was actually started eight years ago, on a year by year basis, by, wait for it, a National led Government.  But then it’s soldiered on in limbo because if anyone funded it some jackass would jump up and say this is a government going soft on crime

This is despite the fact that over the past eight years people who went through the court within two years were 23 per cent less likely to reoffend and 35 per cent less likely to commit another serious crime.

This programme has fixed broken people, decreased prison populations and reduced crime. That’s a hard thing to do, not soft on crime.

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