National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett has apologised to the Prime Minister after saying serious criminals have fewer human rights than others.

"I don't like that the Prime Minister has had to go out and defend me this morning, so I have apologised to him in regard to that," Bennett told Radio New Zealand.

"But I certainly don't apologise for this policy that I think is really good work and will make a difference in keeping our streets safer."

Earlier this morning, English said Bennett's remarks were incorrect and a mistake, saying she had wrongly described National's anti-gang proposals.


However, that did not reflect a deeper disrespect for human rights, English said.

Bennett said yesterday that proposed police powers to search gang members at any time would "stretch" human rights laws.

But she partly justified the policy by saying that serious criminals had "fewer human rights than others".

The search powers were included in a $82 million drug addiction policy which would increase penalties for drug dealing, target supply chains, and boost funding for rehabilitation.

Despite the controversy over Bennett's remarks, she was backed today by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, which said her comments were "spot on".

Spokesman and former Act MP David Garrett said gangs were a "cancer on society" and it was wonderful that Bennett recognised that.

"We don't have to be a society which aids and abets or even tolerates those that sneer and laugh at its most basic values."