19 January 2009

The crime tax

> DomPost: "$50 tax on crime for victim support" The DomPost notes the govt's proposed policy:

$50 tax on crime for victim support All convicted criminals must contribute Every person convicted in court will have to pay a $50 crime tax toward compensating victims under a proposed law to be introduced by National. The victim compensation scheme will offer one-off payments to victims of serious crime to cover costs not met by ACC or other state help, such as counselling or travel to court. Every offender who appears in court, from traffic violators to murderers, will be fined $50 upon conviction estimated to collect about $5 million a year. National says the money would be collected the same way as court costs and fines imposed at sentencing adding little extra administrative costs and would not be collected till any direct reparations which had been ordered had been paid to the victim.

Victims' advocates have welcomed the move, saying victims often face huge bills for funerals and the cost of travel to and from court. Kevin McNeill, whose mother, Lois Dear, was murdered in her Tokoroa schoolroom in July 2006, estimated his family had spent about $30,000 after Mrs Dear's death, including the $10,000 funeral and travel costs to attend the killer's court appearances. "When something like this happens, we're just medium New Zealanders, and when you haven't got a lot and you've got to fork out a lot in a short amount of time, that's where the victim compensation scheme will come out and help people in need," he said. "I reckon it's brilliant." Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar also welcomed the scheme. "It's fantastic to see that we're putting victims straight in the centre of the whole process."

Last week Justice Minister Simon Power promised the $90,000 running costs from a disbanded sentencing advisory board would go toward the scheme. Also, any compensation paid to prisoners for human rights breaches in jail will be confiscated and injected into the compensation scheme, as long as it is not claimed by the specific victims of the offender. National plans to set up a victims' service centre within the Justice Ministry to manage the compensation scheme.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she supported the idea in principle. "It is a crime tax. There's part of me that doesn't disagree with that if it's going to go to those most affected." But low-level offenders might end up subsidising the fund for serious offenders sentenced to jail who would be unlikely to pay the levy. "They [minor offenders] are then paying for those at the high end of crime ... which seems rather unfair."

Opposition justice spokeswoman Annette King said the scheme was a "pure piece of political theatre" that would do little for victims. "If that's all they're offering, then they're really selling the victims a lemon. "The question must be who's going to get it?," she said. "It's going to be hugely bureaucratic and I'll be interested to know how many more public servants they're going to need to run it."

Labour had asked the Law Commission to look at how to set up proper victim compensation schemes and that work was continuing.

Mr Power rejected Ms King's view that the scheme would be expensive to run and said the courts should be able to add the levy at little extra cost. Legislation will be tabled next month.

The part that caught my eye was is this bit:

Labour had asked the Law Commission to look at how to set up proper victim compensation schemes and that work was continuing.

Yes, they are. And, in their analysis of this type of proposal in their discussion paper, they note that "there are a number of significant issues and potential problems with a levy system".

The detailed extract from their discussion paper is set out below:

> LAWS179: "Offender levy for victims of crime and the Law Commission" It will be interesting to see whether - and to what extent - the government's proposal addresses these concerns.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Opposition justice spokeswoman Annette King has expressed not absolutely correctly. Its arguments disputable enough.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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