Alf looks forward to returning home at the end of the week to bask in the acclamation of his mates in the Eketahuna Club. They are tough on law and order and will be chuffed about the passage of some legislation dealing with parole hearings.
The Bill was aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary parole hearings for offenders who still pose a threat to the community.
It increases the maximum interval between hearings from one year to two years. For serious offenders on indeterminate sentences – such as life imprisonment or preventive detention – or sentences of 10 or more years, the maximum time between parole hearings increases from three to five years.
The Bill also includes a range of measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the parole system.
Helped by an “aye” vote from Alf, it passed its third and final reading in Parliament last night.
Justice Minister Amy Adams put out a press statement to welcome the progress of the Parole Amendment Bill, which implements the Government’s plan to reduce the number of parole hearings where the offender has little prospect of release.
“Currently up to 800 parole hearings that do not need to take place are held each year,” says Ms Adams.
“On average, each offender has three hearings before they are approved for release, and a third of all offenders have four or more hearings.”
As Amy explained it, the changes will give the Parole Board greater flexibility in scheduling future hearings, so that they align with and can take account of whether an offender has completed rehabilitative programmes and relevant activities.
“It serves little purpose to hold hearings if an offender hasn’t yet addressed the reasons for their offending and continues to pose a risk to the community.
“These hearings also cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for victims, as they relive the offence again and again.
“The Bill allows hearings to be brought forward if offenders complete relevant activities. This provides incentives for prisoners to address their offending.”
Alf said much the same thing during the third reading debate, but he is not as good looking as Amy and not so eloquent.
It’s great to see the legislation has been given the endorsement of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.
It said today it was pleased to hear the Bill had passed its final hearing, so the Parole Board will now have the ability to impose a maximum of an up to 5 year postponement order where it deems there is no opportunity for parole to be granted for the worst offenders.
Mind you, they think we could have done better, because:
…Leigh Woodman, the SST’s National Victim Advisor has cautioned that the bill will generally only apply to the worst offenders, so the majority of offenders will still be automatically eligible to be seen by the Parole Board annually and indeed in a number of cases, can be seen up to 3 or 4 times a year.
“We hope the Parole Board look more at pre-screening of offenders with low prospects of meeting parole eligibility as this will reduce unnecessary parole hearings and anxiety for victims.
“In the case where an offender waives their right to a parole hearing, we believe the Parole Board should advice the victims of this and postpone the hearing till the offender’s next eligibility date, as it is pointless and cruel to put victims through more stress and anxiety that an unnecessary hearing causes.”
The SST also says offenders should serve their Judge-given sentences with mandatory post-release supervision, but since this is not yet the case, offenders should remember that parole is a privilege; it is not a right and should be treated as such.