National's Mark Mitchell says return of the three strikes rule will stop offenders from re-offending

National is adamant a return of the three strikes rule will stop criminals from re-offending and ending up in prison.

It comes after National announced a new policy on Sunday, promising to get tougher on criminal sentences if it gets into power in October. 

Currently, judges can use their discretion and reduce sentences for mitigating factors, but National wants to limit those cuts to 40 percent of the recommended sentence.

It would also bring back a version of the three strikes law and it would scrap cultural reports which review the offender's history and what may have led to their offending.

Those reports cost about $20 million over four years and National would instead funnel that money towards victims.

But defence lawyer John Munro isn't convinced it's going to actually reduce crime, instead, it could actually increase it.  

"An increase in a sentence doesn't naturally flow to then reduce crime. In fact quite the opposite, it can increase crime, especially for young people and youths going into a prison system," Munro said.

National Corrections spokesperson Mark Mitchell responded on AM on Monday saying the numbers don't lie.

"The biggest deterrent is a criminal knowing they'll be caught for their offending. Number two, you need to have consequences sitting behind that offence. At the moment in this country, we've completely moved away from consequences and that's what's driving the massive increase in violent crime that we're currently seeing in New Zealand," Mitchell told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"With the three strikes legislation, it sort of talks to both of those things because an offender will look at that and say, 'well, I've got my first strike. I want to avoid a second strike'. The numbers actually support and bear that out. When you look at the numbers, a first strike at 10,000, it reduces to a second strike at 700 and a third strike at 32." 

Crime has been a hot topic in New Zealand over the last 12 months with National putting a huge focus on it in the lead-up to the election in October. 

Retail crime is up 39 percent between 2018-2022 and violent crime is up 18-40 percent since Labour came into power, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Data analysed by Newshub in May shows recorded crimes in Auckland lept from 87,971 in the year to March 2022, to almost 110,000 this year.

In Wellington city, they're up from 9800 to 12,290, and in Christchurch city from 25,547 to 35,941.

Mitchell told AM under the current Labour Government there has been a move away from consequences and a move towards putting more people on electronic bail, which is putting the public at risk. 

According to Mitchell, there has been a 45 percent reduction in custodial sentencing, a 158 percent increase in electronic monitoring and a 90 percent increase in absconding. 

After acknowledging custodial sentencing can increase crime, Mitchel said they plan to mitigate it by focusing on rehabilitation.

"There need to be consequences for people that go out and hurt other Kiwis, that don't stick to the laws that the rest of us actually stick to," he said. 

"The flipside of this is it keeps the community safe, so there aren't more people being harmed or becoming victims. When they're in prison, let's invest in them. Let's work on basic things like numeracy and literacy and let's look into the economy and see what jobs and opportunities are there and be very focussed on giving them the training so that they can come out and have a greater success of rejoining society."

National Corrections spokesperson Mark Mitchell.
National Corrections spokesperson Mark Mitchell. Photo credit: AM

When asked if National had any projections to show how much impact their policy will have, Mitchell said it's hard to model it but wouldn't be releasing the policy if they didn't believe in it. 

"What we are saying is we're taking public safety seriously. We're going to get on top of the gangs," he said.

"By the way, I don't want to live in a country where we've got the Mongrel Mob taking over one of our rural towns... and this is where we've come to as a country and you've got enormous human costs on top of the economic cost."

These are the latest in a series of law and order policies announced by National over the past year. They have included sending serious youth offenders to military academies and banning gang insignia in public places.

Last weekend, National announced it would make gang membership an explicit aggravating factor in the Sentencing Act, regardless of whether the crime is related to the offender's gang activity or not.

In response, Labour's Police spokesperson Ginny Andersen said National's policy was just a "reheat" of what it took to the 2020 election, making it a "pretty lazy" move.

"National has got the policy microwave set on reheat," she said in a statement.

"The law as it stands says sentencing must take into account being in a gang or organised crime group as an aggravated factor in sentencing. National are simply proposing a technical tweak."

Watch the full interview with Mark Mitchell in the video above.