Not one burglar gets maximum jail time, and most get none at all, ministry figures show

Burglars, when caught, are unlikely to be jailed, official information reveals.
LUCKY BUSINESS

Burglars, when caught, are unlikely to be jailed, official information reveals.

Not one person convicted of burglary or aggravated burglary has received the maximum penalty for the crimes in recent years.

And in most cases in which burglary was the most serious charge a person faced, jail sentences were avoided.

Data released under the Official Information Act comes at a time of heightened pressures on police to attend every burglary.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer says if people want tougher jail terms, Parliament will have to tweak the law.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Sir Geoffrey Palmer says if people want tougher jail terms, Parliament will have to tweak the law.

The maximum jail term for burglary is 10 years. For aggravated burglary, it is 14 years.

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Despite more than 11,000 convictions for both offences, nobody for at least the past four years has received the maximum penalty.

Jo Wyatt and her husband Derek Butcher, of Whangarei, were burgled in June.
SUPPLIED

Jo Wyatt and her husband Derek Butcher, of Whangarei, were burgled in June.

Pat Millar, whose relative's home in Riccarton was burgled of a TV, medicine, artwork and a mobile phone, has given up on police catching burglars.

"Obviously I'd like them all to be brought to account, but it's not going to happen.

"I had a phone call from police about three weeks ago to ask if everything's OK, but they haven't caught them."

ACT leader David Seymour wants mandatory jail terms for third-time burglars.
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ

ACT leader David Seymour wants mandatory jail terms for third-time burglars.

Jo Wyatt, whose Whangarei house was burgled of jewellery, watches, cameras and clothing in April, said the judiciary was too soft on burglars.

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"The judge just says, 'poor dear, they had a bad childhood'. It's still no excuse.

"They get home detention. That's no punishment. They can just cut their bracelets off, and they do."

Police Association president Greg O'Connor says judges are an easy target but the situation can be more complex.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Police Association president Greg O'Connor says judges are an easy target but the situation can be more complex.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor​ said it was easy to "pick on the judiciary" but officers did have frustrations with how some burglary cases were handled.

He said if there was any likelihood a person in the dock for burglary would reoffend, they should be locked up.

"Burglaries have a big impact and you're seeing it now with the outcry really about the number of burglaries rising."

In August, a new policy made "dwelling burglaries" priority offences, and officers have since been expected to attend all house break-ins.

ACT leader David Seymour favoured a "three strikes" approach, with a mandatory three-year jail term for burglars found guilty of the crime a third time.

"I don't believe anyone will be opposed to incapacitating them for three years."

Seymour said some young burglars might deserve a second, or even third, chance.

"Once can be a mistake. Twice can be a mistake. But three, you're a serial burglar."

Burglaries affected poorer communities severely, Seymour said. Frequently uninsured residents in low-income neighbourhoods had little incentive to go to police.

"Why would you report, if they're not going to catch them, and you've got no insurance to claim?"

He said other MPs were "lackadaisical" about tougher punishment for burglaries.

Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash said judges should "take each case on its merit".

Like O'Connor, he said a few prolific burglars were responsible for a huge chunk of crimes.

At one point burglary rates in Maraenui, Napier, plummeted dramatically and suddenly, he said. A very small group of offenders who had been caught and "shipped out" were responsible for the localised crime wave.

Lawyer and former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, QC, said he was quite surprised at the number of convictions, but not so much by the fact no-one was getting the maximum penalty.

The Sentencing Act required judges to consider the least restrictive sentence appropriate in the circumstances.

"If Parliament wanted to get the sentences up, they would increase the maximum."

Burglary was a reasonably common crime, he said. Aggravated burglary cases were rare, and far more likely to lead to jail time.

"The law for some years has treated violence for people more seriously than other things."

Apart from jail time, at least seven other types of sentences were available, including home detention, community detention, and intensive supervision.

BURGLARY

2012-13: 3195 convictions, 1297 prison sentences.
2013-14: 2818 convictions, 1195 prison sentences.
2014-15: 2573 convictions, 1145 prison sentences.
2015-16: 2607 convictions, 1153 prison sentences.

AGGRAVATED BURGLARY

2012-13: 80 convictions, 62 prison sentences.
2013-14: 76 convictions, 51 prison sentences.
2014-15: 62 convictions, 50 prison sentences.
2015-16: 88 convictions, 63 prison sentences.

(For defendants where burglary/aggravated burglary were most serious charges faced. Source: Ministry of Justice)

 - Stuff

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