More than 2000 families will have returned home from the Easter break to find they had been burgled, and Act says it is the only New Zealand political party offering a serious solution.

Party leader Jamie Whyte yesterday outlined a three-strikes policy, under which burglars will spend at least three years in prison if convicted of the crime a third time.

And this morning on TV3 it appeared to have some support from Prime Minister John Key who said the party makes a "fair point".

The policy is similar to the three-strikes law for violent crime, also an Act policy, which requires judges to sentence offenders who commit a third violent crime to the maximum sentence without parole.


The policy was signalled last month by Dr Whyte, who said it would deter would-be burglars from offending.

Fewer than 2 per cent of burglaries resulted in a term of imprisonment last year, Dr Whyte said, and the Act policy would change this.

The maximum sentence for burglary is a term of 10 years' imprisonment.

The three-strikes-for burglary policy would send all burglars to prison for at least three years without parole if convicted of the offence three times, whether it be in one burglary spree or over many years.

"Burglary is a serious crime that causes misery to tens of thousands of New Zealanders every year," Dr Whyte said.

"Burglary is a problem that requires strong political leadership. Act is the only party with a policy that can significantly reduce this blight on our society."

Juveniles who commit burglary offences would carry their offences through to adulthood, and if convicted as an adult would then be subject to the third-strikes penalties.

Dr Whyte said the current three-strikes policy for violent crime suggested a three-strikes regime for burglars would not lead to a spike in the prison population.


For violent crimes, Dr Whyte said, about 4000 New Zealanders are sitting on a first strike, 32 on a second strike and no one has been convicted of a third-strike offence under the three-strikes policy.

He expected the same deterrence effect to happen with burglars.

"Our view is that any increase in prison population will be moderate.

"Indeed, if it has the deterrent effect we expect, it may ultimately decrease the prison population," the Act leader said.

The policy is modelled on a three-strikes-for-burglary law introduced in England and Wales in 1999.

After a third conviction for burglary, offenders in England are imprisoned for three years with parole.

Burglary there has since dropped 35 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key said the National Party had not ruled the policy out and told TV3's Firstline that they may consider it post-election if re-elected.

"It's not our policy, but it's not a policy that we're rejecting.

"They make a fair point. The thing with burglaries is that invasion of privacy - it's not just their possessions that they care a lot about, it's the creepy sensation that somebody's been crawling around your house.''

However, crime was at a 33-year low and burglary rates were considering to fall, Mr Key said.

"Chucking people in prison is a very expensive way to go and it can sometimes be a nursery for teaching people to be more effective criminals.''

Three strikes

• Offenders will be sentenced to three years in prison without parole if convicted of a third burglary offence.

• Juvenile offenders will not have their convictions treated as strikes unless they are convicted of a further offence in adulthood.

• The third-strike penalty may be overruled by a judge who believed there to be extreme hardship in sentencing the offender to three years in prison.