Retrospective laws are unfair
Garth McVicar wants the proposed law to be retrospective, according to the Herald:
He had hoped the law would be retrospective so criminals' previous violence convictions were included in their "strikes" tally.
"As it is, they get a clean slate and they are able to start again. I don't think that's fair to New Zealanders."Fair? Law changes are almost never retrospective. That's because retrospective laws are unfair. We're told offenders will be deterred by the new law. That assumes they have the capacity to act rationally. Now why would we be encouraging an offender to exercise his/her mind to think about consequences while at the same time saying we might change the rules on them anyway. Idiot.
The myth of deterrence
The theory many offenders will think twice before offending belongs in fantasyland. A few might. But most violent offending is sudden and is not pre-meditated. People who are caught up in the moment are unlikely to be capable of rational thought at the time they most need it.
And let's also not pretend the majority of our crims are bright. Will they even know the law exists? Even though their lawyer might tell them they're going to be in deep shit next time they get in trouble, will they remember this? That someone could forget or disregard something so monumental may sound unlikely, but when I was a young lawyer I had to deal with a few offenders. I discovered that for most of them there was nothing you could do or tell them that would make a difference to their actions. And they wouldn't understand a lot of what you said anyway. Most people who offend are at the bottom of the heap. They are usually poorly educated and often lack social skills. Act rationally? If they were rational they wouldn't be in shit in the first place.
No incentive to rehabilitate
For many of these three-strike offenders, we will still have to release them at some point. What incentive is there for them to rehabilitate if it makes no difference to the time they spend inside? In fact, if we assume these people have the capacity to think rationally about consequences at the very moment they are committing violence, what incentive does a maximum penalty give the offender to not go all the way? If you're going to go down for life without parole for murder, why kill just one person?
Opposition? What opposition?
Labour have been very quiet on this issue. Why? They have said the law won't make a difference, but does that mean they will oppose it at every step?
Will Labour repeal this bad law if elected? My guess is no. When was the last time a government softened a sentencing law?