The National Party is proposing a special police unit focused on gangs, getting tough on the worst youth offenders and tinkering with the right to silence in a courtroom.

The police unit could check for liquor licences if booze was served at a gang pad, inspect tax records for welfare fraud, and look at making it illegal for gang members to hang out with other gang members.

These are some of the suggestions in the party's law and order discussion document, which party leader Simon Bridges launched today in Auckland.

A main focus of the document is on gangs, following on from its social services discussion document that looked at stripping gang members of benefits if they can't prove they don't have illegal income or assets.

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"The Government I lead will harass and disrupt gangs every single day I am prime minister, with the single-minded goal of eliminating them," Bridges said.

National's police unit would be modelled on the Strike Force Raptor in New South Wales, which handled all gang-related incidents.

"The specialist officers would check gang clubhouses and use council rules to shut them down for shoddy workmanship or unconsented work," National's police spokesman Brett Hudson said.

The Raptors also enforced a law where gang members faced jail if they ignored a warning not to associate with criminals, which made it illegal for them to be in the same place as other gang members.

National wants to make gang patches illegal in public places. Photo / File
National wants to make gang patches illegal in public places. Photo / File

National also wants a ban on gang patches from public places, revoking parole for gang members who return to gangs on release, and creating new sentences for violent gang crime.

It proposes greater police powers to search the homes and cars of gang members for firearms. This is similar to the Government's proposed Firearms Prohibition Orders, except these do not target gang members but violent, dangerous people.

Figures released by Police Minister Stuart Nash show the total number of patched gang members in New Zealand has increased by 26 per cent since October 2017.

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National's proposals raise human rights issues including freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of expression, the presumption of innocence and the right to be free from unreasonable search.

Youth offenders

National wants to target youth offenders, encouraging them with an offer of a clean slate but also getting tough on the worst of them.

"We want to incentivise young people who make a silly mistake to get their lives back on track," National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell said.

"We'll give them a second chance by wiping their conviction if they have been charged with one offence with a sentence of less than two years by doing community work, passing NCEA Level 2, looking for work and not offending again."

The conviction would be put back on the person's record if they committed another offence before they turned 25.

National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell wants the criminal justice system to be victim-focused. Photo / Doug Sherring
National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell wants the criminal justice system to be victim-focused. Photo / Doug Sherring

The worst youth offenders would come under a new category, the Young Serious Offender, who would face a zero tolerance approach with no warnings, and could be detained by Oranga Tamariki or police.

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A YSO would be someone under 18 who has committed a offence that carried a maximum sentence of at least 14 years' jail.

They would not be eligible for normal bail, but electronic monitoring, and only to guardians who have been conviction-free for 10 years.

Mitchell said there would be about 150 YSOs.

"There is a small group of young people who are hardened, dangerous criminals. For that group, we're proposing more powers for police to detain YSOs, removing bail in favour of monitored release, removing warnings and increasing sentences."

Right to silence

The document asks for feedback on a member's bill, from the party's courts spokesman Chris Penk, that would enable a judge to draw "proper" inferences from a defendant who refused to give evidence.

It would also allow a prosecution to hammer home the accused's choice to exercise the right to silence.

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"When a defendant appears in court, they have the right to silence. This is an important part of our justice system," National's document says.

"The law at the moment is unclear about what the jury can read into this."

National Party police spokesman Brett Hudson wants a special police unit to take care of gangs. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party police spokesman Brett Hudson wants a special police unit to take care of gangs. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Tough on crime

Bridges sought to frame the Government as soft on crime and National as tough on crime.

Other proposals in the document include:

• No parole for a murderer who won't say where a body is.

• No early release for offenders who don't have NCEA Level 2 literacy and numeracy.

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• Requiring Corrections to notify local schools 48 hours before the release of a sex offender into a community, or within 72 hours of housing the sex offender in a new residential address.

• Increasing penalties for those caught supplying synthetics to eight years' jail - though the Government's new drug law allows life imprisonment for synthetic drug dealers.

• Enabling cumulative sentences for offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and sexual violation, and also if a criminal offends while on bail, in custody, or on parole.

"Most sentences imposed by the courts in New Zealand for multiple offences are concurrent and lead to 'discounted' sentences," National's document says.

"We believe for the most serious of crimes, you should be held accountable for your actions. Victims of these crimes often feel like their rights and views are neglected and think the punishment laid down is too weak."

National also wants to make the Victims Notification Register an opt-out system, and introduce drug-driving tests within 100 days of taking office.

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"Law and order is personal for me," said Bridges, a former Crown prosecutor.

"I've seen the harm serious offenders have caused families and communities."