Election 2023: Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick says Labour playing politics with ram-raid crackdown, claims it's not based on evidence

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has hit out at the Labour Party, saying its ram-raid crackdown is not based on evidence and it’s playing politics. 

Earlier this month, Labour announced it would make ram raids a specific crime, which could be punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

The move will also allow police to charge 12 and 13-year-olds so they can be tried in the Youth Court. Under the current system, they can only be charged for the most serious charges like manslaughter and murder. It will mean pre-teens can face penalties like being locked up in a youth justice facility or wearing an ankle bracelet.

Swarbrick was critical of the announcement on AM on Monday it was "gutting" and not evidence-based. 

A survey conducted by MYOB of 500 small and medium-sized enterprises in New Zealand showed 43 percent of respondents wanted harsher penalties for criminals, which was the top priority for them.

Swarbrick told AM co-host Ryan Bridge she supports small businesses but is also in favour of evidence-based policy. 

"What we know is the concern out there with regard to what's been happening in law and order and the criminality space has, I guess, to be really frank, kind of been exploited by parties who are looking to put forward non-evidence-based policies which we know demonstrably do not work," she said. 

"We've sat on this couch in the past and we've spoken about when people spend longer in prison, they are in fact more likely to re-offend. We have to change that entire system such that we get far better outcomes in the first place." 

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice earlier this year show 70 percent of inmates released are re-convicted within two years, 49 percent will be re-imprisoned within two years of release and less than half are attending rehab programmes. 

The Government's ram-raid crackdown is similar to policy the National Party previously released and Swarbrick says it's just Labour playing politics. 

"I have to say after months of hearing from the Labour Party that they wanted to be putting out their evidence-based policy and pushing back on the opposition, yeah, it was gutting what they decided to come out with," she said.

"I can tell you very clearly that it is not evidence-driven policy and it is them responding to polling and pressure politically, but it is not them acting in an evidence-based way."

When Labour announced the new offence, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the decision isn't about locking up children.

"We have been failing as a country to deal with the youth offending," Hipkins said. "This isn't about sending children to prison."

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: AM

The Government made ram-raiding a specific crime for passengers too, and punishable by up to 10 years.

ACT Party leader David Seymour - who was appearing alongside Swarbrick as part of their weekly AM political panel - said retail crime is out of control.

"I want to tell you on behalf of people who are actually out there trying to run a business, they fear retail crime, it's out of control," he said. 

"It's hard to get staff and it's not just the fact you might get beaten up, that people come in and nick stuff and you call the cops and nobody does anything. It's also the fact it is demoralising. 

"It makes people feel like they don't have a place in this society because no one cares when some criminal comes into their shop and takes their stuff."

Watch the full interview with Chlöe Swarbrick and David Seymour in the video above.