Crime, politicians respond: John Key

John Key, National party leader, responds to readers' suggestions on crime

Readers: We need to be seen to be tougher on criminals with longer sentences rather than parole after a few years.

Key: National has consistently apposed Labour's approach, which is to focus on reducing the prison population. Our focus is on public safety. That is why we are intending to reform parole and bail laws. As an example of our approach and how it contrasts with Labour, earlier this year National announced it would reverse the Labour Government's dangerous 2007 Bail Act changes. The announcement is here

On a wider point, the law and order policies we have announced so far are here

There will be more to come.

Readers: Why can prisons not be a tougher and harsher environment for criminals?

Key: I agree that prisons cannot be perceived as places where criminals can sit around playing Playstation all day. There needs to be focus on literacy and numeracy, work skills, and rehabilitation of offenders. While prisons can't be draconian places with substandard conditions, there are things we can do to address the perception that prisons are somehow a fine choice for people, because they are not.

Readers: The police can be given more powers and rather than focus on human rights.

Key: National's policy is to extend the Police's crime-fighting toolkit by:

* Introducing Tasers, subject to a positive evaluation of the Taser trial. Tasers have been shown to be an effective tool for deterring offenders who would have gone on to harm the public or police.

* Requiring DNA samples to be taken from all those arrested for offences punishable by imprisonment. DNA profiling is an invaluable tool for identifying and catching criminals, and for exonerating the innocent.

* Giving police the ability to issue time-bound, on-the-spot protection orders to protect families. These will provide police with an immediate response to dangerous domestic situations, and ensure that potential victims are protected until courts are able to deal with the matter.

* As previously mentioned, strengthening the bail laws by overturning the 2007 amendments to the Bail Act.

Readers: A call for juries to be given the full facts about criminals rather than suppression of previous convictions.

Key: We have not specifically considered this issue at this stage. I understand the Law Commission has just released a report on it that recommends waiting to see how the Evidence Act 2006 is working, and we will be monitoring that closely.

Readers: More work to be done with youth to keep them out of trouble.

Key: I totally agree, which is why I made it the topic of my state of the nation speech at the start of the year. A full copy can be found here

Briefly, I proposed a Youth Plan to target crime, and help young people get into education or training. Under the Youth Guarantee, National will provide a universal, no-cost education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds so they can access school-level educational study at approved institutions. In the youth crime area, National will introduce "Fresh Start Programmes" as a Youth Court sentence for those on the road to serious offending. These programmes will aim to instil discipline and address underlying causes of offending, and will include up to three months training at, for example, an army facility.

National will also double maximum residential Youth Justice facility sentences from three to six months, and electronically monitor youths by way of ankle bracelets if they breach court-ordered supervision contracts. In addition, the Youth Court will be given powers to issue a range of new compulsory orders like parenting orders, mentoring programmes, and drug and alcohol rehab. National will back up these orders with funding. We will also extend the Youth Court's jurisdiction so it can deal with 12 and 13-year-olds accused of serious crimes.

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