Offender levy collection rate exceeds expectations

  • Simon Power
Justice

The Government's $50 offender levy has reached its first-year target of $2 million nearly five months earlier than expected, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

Since July last year, all convicted offenders have been required to pay a $50 levy at the time of sentencing, regardless of the crime they commit. The levy is collected after reparation and before fines, and is in addition to any sentence or court order.

The money is used to fund eight additional entitlements and services for victims of serious crime.

"The Ministry of Justice estimated that $2 million would be collected in the first year, based on the assumption that 42 per cent of offenders would pay up," Mr Power said.

"In fact, 55 per cent have paid so far.

“That means we met our first-year target on 5 February, as opposed to 1 July, and that's fantastic news for victims of crime because it means we can put more into services for them.

"This levy is an important part of the Government’s work programme to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

"That work includes soon-to-be released decisions stemming from the review of the Victims' Rights Act, and continuing investigations into alternative trial processes for child witnesses."

Mr Power said reaching the levy target almost five months early shows how misguided the Labour Party leadership was when it slammed the idea.

“When we announced in 2008 our intention to introduce the levy, now-Deputy Leader Annette King said she was 'astounded' by the plan, describing it as a ‘bizarre piece of gimmickry’ and ‘a laughable hoax’. (see Labour PR here).

"And when we introduced the levy last year, Labour leader Phil Goff accused us of overestimating the amount we would collect.

"The fact is, because of this levy, victims of serious crime are now getting some entitlements and services they have never had."

 

Questions & Answers

How did the Ministry of Justice estimate the collection rate for the levy?

The Ministry projected a 68% collection rate for the offender levy within four years of imposition, compared to an 88% collection rate for fines after four years. The difference in the collection rate is because unlike most people who have outstanding fines, the levy will be imposed on a new group of people who are more likely to receive non-monetary sentences, are less likely to pay voluntarily, less likely to have an income source to which the levy can be obtained, and highly likely to have a low attitude to compliance generally. The Ministry had estimated that 42 per cent of offenders would pay the levy in the first year, when in fact 55 per cent did.

What will be the net benefit for victims over the next four years?

The offender levy is expected to generate $13.6 million for victims of crime initiatives over its first four years. That takes into account all collection costs and money allocated for the proposed Sentencing Council.

How much levy funding is outstanding?

$457,000 is under payment arrangement. $1.2 million is still to be paid – that includes offenders within the 28 days to pay, those paying reparation first, and those in prison.

How much did the levy cost to set up?

The offender levy cost $1.3 million to set up (2009/10).

How much does it cost to collect?

The collection cost in 2010/11 is $1.1 million. It is estimated to cost $1.3 million in 2011/12 and outyears.

What was the predicted income in the first four years?

In addition to the $2 million estimated for 2010/11, and the Ministry forecast it would collect $3.1 million in 2011/12, $3.9 million in 2012/13, and $4.4 million in 2013/14.

What are the eight additional services and entitlements funded by the levy?
 

  • Four paid homicide support co-ordinators to work with Victim Support's volunteer network.
  • An increase in the discretionary grant for families of homicide victims, from $1,500 to $5,000.
  • A court service for victims of sexual violence which will give them access to a trained adviser who understands the dynamics of sexual violence cases and victims' needs.
  • A grant of $500 towards the expenses incurred as a result of sexual violence, such as replacing items of clothing collected for forensic evidence.
  • Increases in travel, accommodation and childcare assistance for victims attending court proceedings (from $1,000 to $3,000), and Parole Board hearings (from $500 to $1,500).
  • A High Court attendance grant of $124 per person per day for up to five adult members of a homicide victim's family.
  • A funeral grant of up to $4,458.77 to families of homicide victims, on top of the $5,541.23 available through ACC (up to $10,000 in total).
  • New information resources, including a DVD, pamphlets and a redesigned victims' website www.victimsinfo.govt.nz.

Full details about the offender levy-funded initiatives can be found online at www.justice.govt.nz/policy/supporting-victims/new-entitlements-and-services-for-victims-of-serious-crime