The Law and Order Referendum
and other related issues in New Zealand
Sensible Sentencing now online at www.safe-nz.org.nz
Almost 92 percent of the voters in the 1999 election in this country voted in the affirmative for the proposition that restitution and more support be provided for victims of crime and that violent offenders be subject to longer prison sentences and hard labour. It is true that this is in fact more than one question, but nonetheless we believe that the vast majority of those who voted in the affirmative did realise this, despite the criticisms of some who feel that this referendum question was not understood fully.
We would give New Zealanders credit for sufficient intelligence to know that they were answering all the questions in the affirmative simultaneously. Those who wished to answer in the affirmative to one and not the others either would have abstained or given a negative answer, surely!
The referendum achieved approximately three times the vote recorded by any one political party.
91.75% of the voters clearly had no difficulty with the question. The referendum achieved approximately three times the vote recorded by any one political party. If that's not a mandate, what is? For the Justice Secretary Mr Keating and others to suggest that the referendum question was contradictory and confusing is subjective at best and presumptive and arrogant at worst. The bulk of the voters obviously did not agree with him. Perhaps the election results should be put aside and declared null and void until the ignorance of the majority of New Zealanders can be rectified!
Seriously though, it's time to stop talking and start taking action to confront the issues facing our society. Let's place real accountability on offenders, and put in place the required funding to rehabilitate those who can be, and deal with the rest effectively. We must stop the cycle of crime.
The people of New Zealand have voted overwhelmingly for support for crime victims, and sentences that fit the crime. It is the absolute right of every law abiding New Zealander to have safety and peace of mind in their own homes and workplaces, and we should expect no less. It is one of the core tasks of the state.
The public have made their views abundantly clear.
No excuse can realistically be given by this government or anyone else for not acting on all aspects of the law and order referendum, and hopefully with the same commendable speed with which they have already raised the minimum wage, reformed ACC law and the ECA, and much else. The public have made their views abundantly clear.
This overwhelming result was a wake up call for all politicians, judges and others in power. We now expect action from our elected representatives! And those who under the impression that we dont have a crime problem should go look at this data from recent UN Surveys, plus our own Police Force Data which is linked to from here.
To Phil Goff's credit he has at last made a start on this with the new Sentencing and Parole Act, due to go into force next March (providing it is carried out as planned). It could still be improved on some respects, not least of which would be to make it retrospective.
Still, given that Phil Goff probably faced considerable internal opposition in getting even this much from a system run by people who appear determined to keep sentences down, its a hopeful sign, and shows that he at least is listening. And if no further progress is made, the new Sensible Sentencing group will no doubt apply pressure as required (call 0900 SAFENZ to join them).
How the Referendum Arose
The 1999 Referendum was instigated by a petition started by Norm Withers of Christchurch in 1997 after an unwarranted brutal attack on his 72 year old mother who was minding his shop at the time. See story (with graphic picture). With limited financial and other resources he nevertheless collected the 250,000 or so signatures required to force a Referendum on Law and Order. In fact he ended up with 307,832 signatures after the Electoral Commission audit process.
While the preliminary audit process was underway, he was able to collect further signatures, arriving at 378,000 prior to the final audit, arriving at a final post-audit figure of 285,000. From his own pocket he paid Parliament $500 to instigate the referendum process, in order that we could all have our say on this important issue. A petition by itself would go to a select comittee, and subsequently get shelved as have others.
The Question asked was as follows:
"Should there be a reform of the justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?"
Almost 92 percent of the population answered yes.
It was not the first petition. Prior to the Referendum Law coming into effect in 1993, a large petition of a similar nature was started by a Southland family in 1992 after the gruesome rape and murder of Kylie Smith. It was similarly underresourced, but still got 271,223 signatures.
It was almost totally ignored by the then National Government.
In the interim there were numerous rapes and murders and other abominations. Two incidents in particular, however, really shocked and disgusted the New Zealand public, and raised the profile of law and order issues.
One was the rape and murder of Beverly Bouma during a particularly disgusting home invasion.
The other was the intimidation of the Lawton family by Mongrel Mob filth in Invercargill. This gang of degenerates intimidated John Lawton and his family who had the misfortune to be their neighbours. Mr Lawton bravely stood up to them, despite threats of violence .
The New Zealand public showed what they thought, by putting their money where their mouth is to the tune of over $200,000 raised in a public appeal to resettle the Lawton family in a safe location see story. Or see video clips below from an Australian 60 Minutes documentary not shown here;
This site has been constructed in order to support Norm Withers efforts on behalf of all law abiding New Zealanders, and communicate with him via phone (The webmaster's in Auckland, he's in Christchurch). He has put an enormous amount of work into this campaign and is one of this nation's great unsung heroes.
What we can do?
In the face of apparent apathy from those in power, the responsibility to do something about the crime epidemic, and push the politicians to act, falls upon us, the public. There are a few things we can do to help the police and push for action.
i) Call Sensible Sentencing and join up on 0900 SAFENZ (that's 0900 723369 )
ii) Get a cellphone if you do not already have one. The public are the eyes and ears for the police. People with cellphones can immediately inform the police of any evil they see on the spot and answer questions about the offenders description etc from the police. Having a cellphone also confers a degree of protection on the user, as offenders know the user can tell police what is going on as soon as they sense trouble.
The usage cost is from twenty to thirty dollars a month these days, and many of these plans include the phone cheap or free if a contract is taken for a year or more. Prepay options with no ongoing cost apart from that of calls made from the phone are also available. Most cellphone users sooner or later find them indispensable in other ways.
iii) Get a computer and an Internet connection if you haven't already ( and are looking at this on someone else's). This is not as expensive as it used to be. A sound used internet ready machine can be found for as little as $300-400, rather than the thousands you may see new machines advertised for. A flat rate internet connection (i.e. use it as much as you like) is about $20-25 a month and dropping, but a limited use connection of 10 or so hours a month can be found for as little as ten bucks a month.
With this you can find information, and, more importantly, email people, including politicians! See the links page for political party websites where you can get hold of them.
Ask (your local MP) why the Police are so woefully understaffed
iv)Write to your local M.P. Let them know your feelings, and ask them why the referendum which was voted for by 92% of us is not being acted on by Parliament. Ask them why the Police are so woefully understaffed, what they intend doing about it, and when. Write letters to the Editor of the Herald, Dominion, Press, whatever local or national papers you get. This can now be done via email in some cases. You can also do the same with magazines such as Listener, Metro, North and South, and so on.
Get involved with your local Neighbourhood Watch, and be willing to report anything that looks wrong or suspect to you. We are all the eyes and ears of the police, and given how thin the Thin Blue Line is these days, they need all the help they can get.