Rising gun crime proof three-strikes doesn't work - Labour MP David Parker

A Labour MP says rising gun crime is proof the three-strikes law has done nothing to stop violent offenders, backing up the Government's plans to scrap it.

The law, enacted in 2010 by National and ACT, forces judges to hand down the maximum sentence possible with no chance of parole when an offender is convicted of their third violent offence unless doing so would be "manifestly unjust". 

Labour planned to repeal it in its first term, but was stopped by New Zealand First. It's now pushing ahead.

Senior Labour MP David Parker on Friday said it had been "an utter, utter failure".

"You said the three-strikes law legislation was going to reduce violent crime and gun crime," he told National MP Simon Bridges, appearing with him on The AM Show.

"It did neither of those things - in fact, it made things worse because judges contorted themselves to get around that. It was an utter failure. It was a political gesture by the ACT Party, it was an appalling policy and it didn't work."

In September, police data showed there had been a 49 percent rise in injuries resulting from gun crime in the past year-and-half, compared to two years before. 

Bridges said the worst offenders convicted under three-strikes legislation had up to 74 convictions, and the law was working to keep them behind bars.

"You're too busy worried about criminals and not spending enough time worrying about victims of crime."

ACT criticised the move, saying "the worst criminals" had been given "an early Christmas present" and New Zealanders would "feel safer with these violent thugs off the streets". 

But Ministry of Justice data shows up to the end of 2020, only one of the 20 people convicted of a third strike had been ordered to serve the maximum sentence without parole - judges using their discretion to allow parole almost every time. 

The first person to get a third strike was a man already in prison who grabbed a Corrections officer's bottom, Newsroom reports, and a mentally ill man was recently freed after the Supreme Court said his sentence - seven years for trying to kiss a woman on the street - was so disproportionate, it breached the Bill of Rights. 

An evidence brief provided to the Ministry of Justice in 2018 said there was no solid evidence either way whether three-strikes laws work, here or overseas, with studies "prone to political bias" and no international meta-analyses or systematic reviews.

"There have been no studies conducted on whether New Zealand’s three strikes law reduces crime, although observations of crimes targeted by the law do not appear to demonstrate any obvious effects," it read. 

"It just hasn't worked. It was always a political gesture," said Parker. "They said violent and gun crime was going to go down after this, it's done the opposite - it's gone up. That proves it didn't work. It was a hollow political gesture from the ACT Party, it's been widely criticised and it's well dispatched to the bin of history."