Change Bill of Rights, says 3-strikes MP

By Patrick Gower

The Act MP who designed the proposed "three strikes and you're out" law says if it breaches fundamental human rights, the solution is simple - change the Bill of Rights.

David Garrett dismissed a report by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson that found three strikes had an apparent inconsistency with the section of Bill of Rights protecting New Zealanders against cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe punishment.

Mr Garrett had not read the report, but told of its findings yesterday said: "So what?"

"Alter the Bill of Rights Act. We've got too hung up on people's rights."

Three strikes would see those convicted of a third serious offence sentenced to life imprisonment with a 25-year non-parole period.

As Attorney-General, Mr Finlayson is required to report on any bill that appears inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. The report is not his views as a National MP or minister.

Mr Garrett said the Attorney-General's report focused on three strikes being punishment, when it was equally a protective measure.

"It is saying you have blown two chances; despite two warnings you have come out and done this behaviour again and we are not going to allow you to remain in the community to become a killer."

Mr Garrett, a former legal adviser to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, said the concerns were not Mr Finlayson's personally but those of "some oik in Crown Law".

Mr Garrett said the Attorney-General's report only pointed out that it "may" breach the Bill of Rights.

He said a full determination would be made by the courts and would not be relevant until the the first "three-striker" complained, which would be at least 15 years away. If the offender was successful, Parliament could change the Bill of Rights.

"I'm actually more interested in a victim's rights than a criminal's rights. We are talking about the "rights" of someone who has served at least two sentences for violent offending and just been sentenced to a third lot.

"I'm not interested in that person's rights quite frankly. He should have the rights to be fed adequately, to get medical care and not to get tortured - and that's it."

Mr Garrett said official figures he obtained last year showed there were 78 killers in jail, who at the time they killed had already served at least three sentences for violence. This meant if there had been a three strikes law at the time "their victim wouldn't have been killed because the killer would have been banged up".

Three strikes is a key Act policy and has been introduced to Parliament by National as a condition of the minor party's agreement to support the Key Administration - with National reserving judgment on whether it will support the legislation further.

- NZ Herald

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