New Zealand's first offender, a Whanganui stabber, to be given the maximum sentence available under the controversial three-strikes rule is the law working as it was intended, says Act Party leader David Seymour.
The sentence, imposed today by Justice David Collins in the High Court at Whanganui, comes as the Government holds its three-day criminal justice summit this week.
Minister of Justice Andrew Little expressed his desire to repeal the three-strikes law, which came into effect on June 1, 2010 after a deal with the National-led Government and Act Party.
The Labour-led Government, however, ditched its planned repeal of the law after objections by New Zealand First.
The three-strikes law requires a person convicted of a third serious violent, sexual or drugs offence to be sentenced to the maximum available sentence without parole, unless it would be "manifestly unjust".
Justice Collins, a former Solicitor-General of New Zealand from 2006 to 2012, sentenced Hayze Neihana Waitokia to seven years' imprisonment for wounding with intent to injure after stabbing a man in the leg while on bail.
He is the first New Zealand judge to use the full extent of the law, with all the judges in other three-strikes cases using the manifestly unjust caveat and ruling a maximum sentence without the possibility of parole would be so.
Waitokia has 14 previous convictions, including six for violent offending.
In 2012, the 26-year-old was sentenced to five months' home detention and was given his first-strike warning for a vicious assault using a piece of wood.
In 2014, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and given his second-strike warning for stalking and sexually assaulting a 17 year-old girl.
Waitokia was also sentenced to four months' imprisonment for domestic violence assaults in March this year.
At sentencing today, Justice Collins said he was "not convinced that it would be grossly disproportionate" to sentence Waitokia the maximum term.
"I acknowledge that your sentence will be much harsher than I would otherwise
have imposed, however, that will invariably be the case for a third-strike offence," the judge said.
"Parliament deliberately designed a harsh response to offenders who persistently
commit serious offences despite clear warnings."
Justice Collins continued: "I have reached the conclusion that this is not a clear and convincing case to depart from the full effects of the three-strikes regime. This conclusion is based in part because I consider that you are at a high-risk of reoffending and there is a need for community protection. Your previous three-strike offences, and the pattern of behaviour they demonstrate, are very telling."
Seymour said the sentence was the three-strikes law working as it was intended.
"This was the first case in which a third striker was ordered to serve a prison sentence without parole," he said in a statement.
"Prior to 2010, Waitokia would have only received jail time of two years and three months. As a result of Act's three-strikes law, he was jailed for seven years."
Seymour said the three-strikes law was designed to deliver a harsh response to criminals who repeatedly commit serious offences.
"Andrew Little, [Deputy Prime Minister] Winston Peters, and other ministers need to ask themselves whether they want repeat violent offenders to be able to churn through our justice system creating an endless string of victims."
In May, University of Canterbury criminology professor Greg Newbold told Newstalk ZB judges hadn't applied the three-strikes rule because they felt that law itself was manifestly unjust.
"The judges are interpreting the law very liberally. The judges effectively are saying the law itself is manifestly unjust and they are refusing to apply it," he said.
"It was a ridiculous rule to start off with it. It made no sense, it's full of flaws, it's completely inconsistent with the principles of justice."