Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Create 'king hit' offence and scrap 'revenue-gathering' speed cameras - Winston Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. File Photo / Stuart Munro
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. File Photo / Stuart Munro

A "king hit" punch crime would be established and speed cameras will only be allowed in accident blackspots and near schools, under New Zealand First policy unveiled by leader Winston Peters today.

Peters also reiterated a pledge to increase police numbers by 1800, saying his party will not go into government without an agreement to do so.

That meant something, he said - previous post-election negotiations with Labour on police numbers had been successful.

"They weren't going to argue about it, would they. Who wants to stop being Prime Minister?"

In a wide-ranging speech, Peters attacked "soft-headed" judges, the media, Police Minister Judith Collins, former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and warned of Maori and Chinese criminals conspiring together.

He also pledged to stop the "cop-blaming" culture that saw the Independent Police Complaints Authority investigate police actions when a high-speed pursuit goes wrong.

"Why are we lining up the police and allowing the media to have fielday every time it happens? These people are potential mass murderers, belting down the highway at breakneck speed with no care for the consequences."

Peters' speech was preceded by a minute's silence for former Council of Trades Unions president Helen Kelly, who lost her battle with lung cancer this morning.

Keen to underline NZ First's law-and-order credentials after Labour yesterday pledged to bolster police numbers by 1000, the policy in Peters' speech included:

• Confirming a boost to police front-line numbers of 1800 as soon as training allows will be a bottom-line in any post-election negotiations. He said that would cost about $324 million a year, not including extra non-sworn staff that will be needed.

• Allow speed cameras only when used as a deterrent at accident blackspots, or near schools or other places where there are specific potential dangers.

• Defining a "king hit" or "coward's punch" in law as "an event that is unexpected and unprovoked but of such force to the head that it is likely to cause incapacitation, injury or death". Peters indicated a minimum penalty upon conviction would be at least eight years. He said New Zealand should follow Australia's lead and crackdown on such attacks.

• Trial "rural police support", or community forces of volunteers, similar to the rural volunteer fire service. They would have to meet recruitment requirements, undergo training and receive an allowance.

After an outcry over several "one punch" or "king hit" attacks in Australia, the Crimes Act was changed to create a new offence of assaulting a person by hitting and causing death, with a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Peters told the conference that recent crimes here warranted a similar change.

"What has happened to this country when a man walks into a dairy and is killed by a punch. That's what happened to Matthew Coley in Invercargill. His 16-year-old killer got 22 months' jail, but only served 11 months on remand.

"Why can't a man wait for a burger without fear of attack? That's what Steve Radnoty was doing when he was killed in Dunedin. His partner said afterwards life was now a nightmare. The killer got three years, but was eligible for parole after only 12 months. That's too soft."

Police Association president Chris Cahill.
Police Association president Chris Cahill.

New Police Association president Chris Cahill welcomed Peters' king-hit policy.

"We'd certainly like to have a good discussion around it. The coward's punch is something that I have seen the tragedy of in my day job in Auckland. It is worth a discussion."

On Peters' IPCA comments on fleeing drivers, Cahill said the focus should be on the person who doesn't stop.

"But in saying that, we are not afraid to stand up to scrutiny as well."

He did not believe speed cameras were a revenue-gathering tool, and said they could save lives.

Labour leader Andrew Little spoke to the conference yesterday afternoon and pledged to swell police numbers by 1000 in Labour's first term in government, and about 300 extra non-sworn staff.

Opposition parties have been attacking the Government's record on law and order as crime rates rise along with concerns about burglary and other crime resolution rates.

Outgoing Police Association president Greg O'Connor used his last speech at the conference to slam the Government over a lack of police resourcing, and called for an urgent increase in officer numbers.

The country was facing a "second wave" of the methamphetamine problem, he said, and gang numbers were swelling, particularly those of the Head Hunters'.

Prime Minister John Key has indicated police numbers will increase, after lobbying from Collins. An announcement is expected soon.

Collins has said the Government had not kept up with its own "modest" goal of one police officer for every 500 people. There is about one officer to every 526 people because of population increases.

Judith Collins not revealing new police numbers: Perhaps some of my friends in the media will get off their broad half-acre and ask her as well.

From Peters' speech to the Police Association

Police morale: "Morale in many small rural stations is not down - there's nobody there to have morale. At all. Unless the next-door neighbour's dog has a sense of morale."

New technology: "Instead of the extra police the minister gave you iPhones and iPads. I'm waiting to see some damn iPhone arrest some burglar anytime soon, so I know the investment has been sound."

On controversy over the Urewera raids: "Who backed you? When you couldn't see the rest for dust and small pebbles."

On organised crime: "Underground crime where Maori and Chinese are partners and involved in areas like drugs and prostitution."

- NZ Herald

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