Pubdate: Wed, 28 Oct 2009
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2009 Allied Press Limited


A set of bills strengthening laws used against gangs sparked
passionate debate in Parliament today before being passed into law.

The Gangs and Organised Crime Bill was divided into three bills: the
Crimes Amendment Bill, Local Government Amendment Bill and the
Sentencing Amendment Bill No 3.

Between them they will give police, courts and local authorities
greater powers in terms of monitoring, disrupting and sentencing those
who take part in organised criminal groups.

The bills passed 108-14, opposed by the Maori Party and

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said there were better ways to deal
with gangs than ramping up enforcement and imprisonment.

Gang and community engagement was more effective than "short term
hysterics" such as putting offenders in jail and throwing away the

Communities needed to be empowered so they could help deal with issues
on their own terms.

Mr Flavell referred to a situation in the Bay of Plenty town of
Murupara where two young people had allegedly been murdered in the
past year.

The town's community had recently called a rahui -- a prohibition of
violence in their town -- and had banned patches on a local marae.

Mr Flavell said he had no issue with criminals being punished, but
called for a "balance between enforcement and restoration."

Labour MP Shane Jones took offence to claims from the Maori Party that
gang members were "our people".

"Stop calling them our people; they are not our people," he

"Our people don't go to jail for killing teenage boys, our people
don't go to jail for raping, selling P and celebrating it as a mark of
distinction and success.

"They're not our people. In fact they are not people...they are the
slaves that would have been despatched before Christianity without a
sliver of doubt."

National MP Sandra Goudie said gangs could be as savvy as anyone else
in keeping up with technological advances and were much more
sophisticated than they used to be.

It was important police were given the tools needed in their drive and
keep on top of their offending, she said.

In its separate form, the Crimes Amendment Bill allows police to apply
for an interception warrant to investigate participation in an
organised criminal group and increases maximum sentences.

The Sentencing Amendment Bill makes gang participation an aggravating
factor at sentencing, and the Local Government Amendment Bill enables
police and local authorities to seek removal orders against
intimidating gang structures.

In its initial form, the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill passed its
first parliamentary reading in February. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake