ACT Party newsletter slammed for saying one violent or sexual offence 'might be a regrettable mistake'

  • 17/11/2021

A newsletter by the ACT Party stating one serious violent or sexual offence might be a "regrettable mistake" is disappointing and shows more education is needed around the issue, victims' advocate Louise Nicholas says.

In ACT's weekly Free Press newsletter, the party discusses its opposition to repealing the three strikes law - which the Government announced it would do last week. The three-strikes law means third-time serious offenders get the maximum sentence with no chance of parole.

"We don't mind giving people a second chance, maybe even a third chance, but we don't think they deserve a fourth chance," the newsletter says. 

"One serious violent or sexual offence might be a regrettable mistake. Perhaps even two, at a pinch. 

"It makes sense to rehabilitate people if they can be… For them, for the taxpayer, and for everyone, because even the longest sentence ends eventually. But at some point, rehab don't work.

"After three serious violent or sexual offences, it is time to throw away the key." 

Nicholas told Newshub said the "regrettable mistake" comment was a "ridiculous statement".

"As we know, this whole 'regrettable sex' thing that comes in - we get that a lot but it's only because they've been caught," she said on Wednesday.

Nicholas, a prominent campaigner for sexual violence victims, said such comments could put the handbrake on people coming forward.

"Our rate of sexual violence in New Zealand and in the OECD is way too high and it's because of actions like this and wording like that, that prevents people from coming forward."

Nicholas said more education was needed.

"What if that was one of your family members? Are you going to turn around and say, 'Oh… you regretted doing it, it was a mistake'? I don't think so.

"My suggestion is to actually sit down with those that actually work at the coal face of supporting survivors and their family and whānau, and actually listen to the stories. It is about education - it's about sitting up and taking note of the reality of what actually goes on in a person's life who's been traumatised by a crime like that."

A spokesperson for ACT Party's Free Press said the comment wasn't meant to offend anyone.

"That's a fair call from Louise Nicholas, no offence was meant by the comment, it was intended to make the point that there is hope for rehabilitation after one offence. 

"However it needs to be seen in the context of what followed in the article that repeat offenders who cannot be rehabilitated should definitely get a maximum sentence.

"ACT is on the side of victims, not offenders, and we will continue to fight against the repeal of Three Strikes."