Three strikes policy announced

Last updated 16:33 19/01/2010
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Repeat violent offenders will not be eligible for parole after their third offence, the Government has this afternoon announced.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters that an agreement with the ACT Party had been reached and the policy would be incorporated in to legislation due in parliament in March.

The three strikes policy has been the subject of controversy with some campaigners worried offenders could be locked up for long periods over minor offences.

Mr Key today said the altered policy would incorporate "significant aspects of ACT's three strikes policy."

An offender would receive a standard sentence and warning for their first serious offence. The second offence would usually lead to a jail term with no parole and a further warning. On conviction for a third serious offence, the offender would receive the maximum penalty in prison for that offence with no parole.

A court could override the maximum sentence with non-parole if it would be "manifestly unjust" to impose the penalty.

Only people over 18 would be subject to the three strikes law, and offences to be counted as a strike would have to be punishable by a sentence of five years or more.

It would not be retrospective.

Police and Corrections Minister Judith Collins said the Government was determined to hold serious repeat offenders to account.

"The regime will be harsh - but only for the small number of people in our community who show continued disregard for the law and contempt for society," Ms Collins said.

The original proposal had been to punish a third offence with a life sentence but this was dropped in favour of the mandatory maximum sentence.

"This regime will fill a gap relating to the most serious repeat offenders, yet be fair because it has provision to avoid the possibility of someone getting a life sentence for a relatively minor offence," Ms Collins said.

The regime was expected to create a gradual increase in the number of prison beds required. An extra 142 prison beds would be needed in the first 10 years.

The policy would be added to the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which is before the law and order select committee and due back in parliament for its second reading in March.

ACT leader Rodney Hide said getting the "Three Strikes and Max" policy was a "proud day for ACT".

"It's a great day for law-abiding Kiwis. We finally have a Government cracking down on violent offending," Mr Hide said.

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