New Zealand First leader Winston Peters responds to readers' suggestions on tackling crime.
Readers: We need to be seen to be tougher on criminals with longer sentences rather than parole after a few years
Peters: New Zealand First believes it is a basic right of all New Zealanders to live in a safe society, and we advocate a tough but fair Law and Order stance. In many situations, the maximum sentences for serious criminal offences are often inadequate and we would look to increase them. We would amend parole to put the onus on the inmate to show that he or she is ready for release and ensure that if there is not genuine rehabilitation the offender will serve their full sentence. We would remove parole altogether for violent offenders. We would also seek to deter recidivist offending by introducing the principle of 'three strikes and you're out', which would require serious recidivists to serve a substantial minimum period in prison on their third offence.
Readers: Why can prisons not be a tougher and harsher environment for criminals?
Peters: We advocate prison sentences as both a punishment and a chance for rehabilitation. Currently, many prison inmates come out worse than when they went in. This is not acceptable. We need to ensure that inmates are not only punished for their crimes, but are given positive guidance and training to reform and turn their back on crime once they are released.
Readers: The police can be given more powers rather than a focus on human rights?
Peters: There must be a balance between police powers and human rights. However, the pendulum has now swung too far to the 'rights' of offenders, to the detriment of public safety. New Zealand First supports increasing the powers and tools available to Police to combat crime, and would look to introduce tasers to frontline officers, increase DNA sampling of all people arrested, and enhance Police search powers.
Readers: A call for juries to be given the full facts about criminals rather than suppression of previous convictions.
Peters: This issue is fairly contentious, and while we are currently opposed to juries being given the full facts of an offender's previous history in the interests of a fair trial, this position is currently under review.
Readers: More work to be done with youth to keep them out of trouble.
Peters: We agree that more work must be done to ensure young people are kept out of trouble, and ensure that those who do get into trouble are rehabilitated at their first contact with the justice system. New Zealand First has a record of advocating for improvements in the Youth Justice system to deal fairly and firmly with young offenders. Young people must be made aware of the consequences of their actions.