One in four crims breach order

By Imran Ali of The Northern Advocate -
One in four criminals sentenced to home detention for their crimes in Northland are breaching their conditions, new figures show. Photo / NZ Herald
One in four criminals sentenced to home detention for their crimes in Northland are breaching their conditions, new figures show. Photo / NZ Herald

One in four criminals sentenced to home detention for their crimes in Northland are breaching their conditions, new figures show.

The revelation has prompted a victims' rights campaigner to call on the Government to revert to an earlier system in which home detention only applied to minor offences.

Figures obtained by The Northern Advocate under the Official Information Act show that in the year to June 2011, nearly 26 per cent - or 936 of the 3613 offenders sentenced by Northland courts - breached their home detention sentences.

This compares with 23 per cent, or 877 breaches, from 3780 home detention sentences imposed the previous year.

The number of breaches in 2010 and 2011 were lower than 2009 when 35 per cent, or 92 out of 257 home detention sentences, were breached.

However, the number of home detention sentences imposed in 2009 were considerably lower than those imposed in the following two years.

Only those facing a jail sentence of two years or less can be considered for home detention.

The Department of Corrections would not supply information on the specific nature of breaches for both years.

However, common reasons for breaches include leaving the address without approval, consuming alcohol, and failure to attend rehabilitative programmes.

General manager of Community Probation Services, Katrina Casey, said home detention was both rehabilitative and punitive.

"Certain offenders can retain employment and access to rehabilitative programmes in the community."

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said Parliament has to give serious thought to introducing tough measures to get the message the crime does not pay.

"Our submission before alternative sentences were introduced was we were extremely concerned about an increase in offending if such sentences were not restricted to minor offending.

"It's a corrupt ideology of the justice system and despite Parliament's assurance that alternative sentences would lower the level of offending, they have not," he said.

Associate Minister for Justice Chester Burrows did not agree with Mr McVicar's comments that alternative sentences have resulted in increased offending.

"There is much more to providing smart solutions to crime than simply parroting 'tough on crime' mantra," Mr Burrows said.

Home detention, he said, had produced significantly lower re-conviction and imprisonment rates when compared to short prison sentences.

In the year to June 2011, 796 people were sentenced in Northland courts to home detention for traffic and vehicle offences, 561 for assault-related injuries, 455 for drugs, 379 for burglary and break-ins and 344 for fraud and deception.

Nationally, more than 36,000 offenders are serving community-based sentences and orders.

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