Mongrel Mob hits back at Shane Jones' call to strip gang member rights

Shane Jones is calling for a separate court process for gang members in New Zealand and is attacking gang leaders for "trying to pass themselves off as crime-free apostles" - something he "deeply resents". 

Jones, a Cabinet minister, said the Mongrel Mob has been "madly patching up new members... They're not joining because they want to sing baritone in the local choir. They join to protect their criminal racketeering".

President of the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter Sonny Fatupaito has hit back, telling Newshub: "The hypocrisy of Shane Jones knows no end - using gangs for political gain." 

He said his gang runs programmes formulated to "help our people advance where the system has failed us" and that "many people from outside our whānau have offered their skills and services to add weight for the productivity of our people".

Jones, also a New Zealand First MP, told Newshub he's putting forward a proposal to his party's caucus that "if you are in a gang then naturally you should be processed in a different way when you go through the criminal system".

He said gang members should be "denied a bunch of other rights that God-fearing citizens have because you've shown you have got absolutely no desire to contribute or enhance or recognise the obligations that come with belonging to a community".

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the idea had not been proposed to him and that it was not something he would consider, because "equality before the law is a founding principle of our nation".

Jones said he's been approached by business owners across the country in his role as Regional Economic Development Minister who have "pleaded" with him to "take that type of thinking forward because they are that frightened".

"I'll give voice to their anxieties and apprehensions."

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones.
New Zealand First MP Shane Jones. Photo credit: Newshub

Fatupaito questioned Jones' attack, telling Newshub: "Is his attack on gangs sincere or is it simply a ploy to divert the public's attention away from certain political parties and events which are currently under the SFO microscope?"

He said Jones' comments about gang leaders passing themselves off as "crime-free apostles" is a "fallacy".

"Jones isn't saying anything I haven't heard before. Commentators like him criticise because our accomplishments highlight their deficiencies. They don't criticise because they've got a different perspective, they criticise because they are envious."

Jones also blasted the gang chapter's public relations representative Louise Hutchinson, describing her as a "Pakeha woman who obviously has no knowledge of the genuine menace and deep pain and death that gangs have caused".

Fatupaito responded: "I would ask Mr Jones to explain himself as to why he went to great lengths to point out that our liaison person is a Pakeha woman? The Mongrel Mob Kingdom has members and supporters from all parts of the community.

"Mr Jones is absolutely remiss by even suggesting that these services are paid for, they are all offered in the spirit of aroha."

President of the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter Sonny Fatupaito.
President of the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter Sonny Fatupaito. Photo credit: Supplied

Read Sonny Fatupaito's full resonse below

Growing gang numbers 

It comes as gang disputes heat up across the country, with gunshots fired during a gang altercation near a Napier shopping centre in Hawke's Bay in January, and a fatal shootout with police in Tauranga last week.

Figures released by Police Minister Stuart Nash last year showed a 29 percent increase in gang numbers since October 2017, sparking outcry from the Opposition who say the Government is "soft on crime".

National MP Mark Mitchell has been a strong advocate for cracking down on gangs, telling Magic Talk in November they "demonise themselves" in society.

Jones said he could find common ground with Mitchell.

National is set to announce its full gang plan before the election.

Its law and order discussion document has hinted at what it might include, such as banning gang patches in public and a specialist anti-gang police taskforce like Strike Force Raptor in New South Wales. 

Jones also supports the Police Minister, telling Newshub Stuart Nash "can claim credit for having substantially increased the scope and the depth of the police resource".

More than 1900 new police have been deployed since the Government took office in 2017, and the Government has a commitment to reach 2000 by March this year.

Jones praised the increase in police resources but said this is "not a particular issue that can be led by just the Police Minister... It needs to find widespread support across the political spectrum".

Pointing to the emerging issue of gang members being deported back to New Zealand from Australia, Jones said: "I want to stand staunch with the police but obviously it's time for some more robust thinking in this area."

The deportees are nicknamed "501s" because of the immigration law created under Australian politician Peter Dutton. It meant Kiwis deemed "not of good character" could be sent back, many with little connection to New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has raised the issue with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, describing the policy as "corrosive".