The passing of the controversial “three strikes” bill yesterday is a serious blow to the fairness of New Zealand’s criminal justice system as it removes the ability of judges to tailor sentences to the particular circumstances of an offence, said Amnesty International today.
Amnesty International is concerned that provisions outlined in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill are a direct breach of both domestic and international human rights laws.
“We have witnessed the introduction of a series of reforms aimed at improving the efficiency, accountability and the quality of service provided by the justice sector – but these must not come at the cost of New Zealand’s obligation to upholding human rights,” says Patrick Holmes, Chief Executive Officer of Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ.
In its submission on the bill, Amnesty International stressed that the provision to impose the maximum sentence without parole on an offender’s third offence may constitute a disproportionately severe form of punishment, placing New Zealand in contravention of its Bill of Rights Act.
This provision would also fail to comply with the international human rights law on which the Bill of Rights Act is based, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - which states: “No one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”1
Under the new legislation, courts will lose the ability to tailor sentencing appropriate to the individual circumstances of offender and their crime.
“Taking power out of the hands of judges and putting it in those of the legislature undermines the ability of the justice system to fulfil its core mandate – to deliver justice even-handedly,” says Holmes.