“ACT is proposing to remove Section 26(2)(a) and Section 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002, which allows criminals to gain shortened sentences by undergoing cultural background reports,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“These reports are leading to massively reduced sentences for some of our most hardened criminals, by focussing on the background of the offender our justice system is failing to properly acknowledge the victim.
“Section 26(2)(a) of the Sentencing Act says ‘A pre-sentence report may include — information regarding the personal, family, whanau, community, and cultural background, and social circumstances of the offender.’
“Section 27(1)(a) entitles criminals to have the Court hear witnesses about their background including their cultural background. There is no culture in New Zealand where violence is acceptable. There is no crime that is justified by being alienated by culture. These sections should go.
“They’ve also created a cottage industry within our justice system. Stuff reports that the cost commissioning cultural reports has almost doubled in the last financial year. Between July 1 2021 and June 30 2022, 2,328 cultural reports were commissioned at a cost of $5.91m paid by the state.
“A few months ago, a man who punched a pregnant woman unconscious was let out on home detention, because a cultural background report found he hadn’t been properly introduced to his whakapapa. This man was being charged for punching the woman pregnant with his seventeenth child. I wonder how many of them will be connected with their whakapapa by knowing their father, and whether that would be a good thing?
“In 2021 a man who had beaten, strangled and threatened to kill his former partner for several months received a 10 per cent reduction in his sentence, despite the Judge describing the cultural report as being of “limited value as it consisted mainly of observations by others and little from Huata himself.”
“Then just yesterday a pair of Mongrel Mob members running a major meth operation received up to 30 per cent discounts on their sentence because of reports into their upbringing. What about the countless lives that have been ruined by the methamphetamine they produced and distributed?
“They say justice is blind, but in New Zealand we appear to hand out massively reduced sentences for criminals who have had troubled upbringings. ACT says we need to focus on the victims.
“We also need to ask ourselves if this money is best spent going to consultants, or being used to help with rehabilitation and supporting victims.
“Only in New Zealand. We have a Government that thinks reducing the prison population is more important than keeping people safe. By removing this part of the Sentencing Act 2002 we can make our country safer and ensure that sentencing is appropriate to the crime.”