Tougher Penalties for Sexual Violation

  • Doug Graham

The Minister of Justice, Hon D.A.M. Graham, says a report released today by the Ministry of Justice shows the judiciary is taking advantage of tougher provisions introduced in 1993 for sentencing offenders convicted of sexual violation.

The report Conviction and Sentencing of Offenders in New Zealand: 1987 to 1996 is the seventh in an annual series examining trends in prosecutions, convictions, and sentences imposed by the courts. Average lengths of the custodial sentences imposed for rape have increased in each of the last three years to reach seven years and four months in 1996.

'This is the highest figure in the decade covered by the report,' Mr Graham says. 'In the period 1991 to 1993, rapists had sentences imposed of 5 years 11 months on average.

'Custodial sentences imposed for unlawful sexual connection have also been longer in recent years compared to earlier years in the decade. 'The Crimes Amendment Act (No. 3) 1993 increased the maximum penalty for both rape and unlawful sexual connection from 14 years to 20 years.' Convictions for violent offences dropped a little in 1996, compared with the figure for 1995, the first drop in such offences since 1990. 'This small decrease in convictions for violent offences in 1996 corresponds with a decrease in violent offences which were reported to the Police in 1996,' Mr Graham says.

Eighty percent of convictions for a violent sex offence in 1996 involved a victim aged 16 years or under.

'The prosecution of a significant number of offences which occurred some time ago has contributed to the high proportion of charges in 1996 which involved young victims,' Mr Graham says.

'There were 296 convictions in 1996 which related to violent sex offences against young victims which occurred in the 1970s or earlier.' The Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1993 gave the court greater powers to impose reparation during sentencing.

'Since this amendment, the proportion of convicted property offences which resulted in a sentence of reparation has been a little higher compared to previous years.

'However, despite this, less than a quarter of all convicted property offences result in reparation,' Mr Graham says. 'For this reason a study was undertaken to investigate the reasons why reparation was not imposed in the majority of property offences. 'The study found that reparation was often not imposed because the loss had been made good or the property was recovered.

'Other reasons for the non-use of reparation were that the offence resulted in no or minimal victim loss, reparation was not sought by the Police, the offender was given a custodial sentence or the offender had insufficient means to pay reparation,' Mr Graham says.