Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Retraction: Three Strikes Five Years On

On September 30 2015, I published a post: The Greg King Memorial Blogpost: Three Strikes Five Years On.

I retract that post. I am grateful to Dominion Post journalist Nikki Macdonald for her story published today looking at three strikes that determined that my piece was unsupportable.

The principal comparison I made in that post, between the number of second-strikes there had been during the first five years after three strikes, and the number there would have been in the five years before three strikes, had three strikes been in place five years earlier, is invalid. The pre-three-strikes data and the post-three-strikes data on which the post was based are not comparable.

The conclusions I reached in my post, as tentative as they were, are not supported by the evidence. I do not know what the correct figures are, but I have substantially overstated the number of second strikes there would have been.

The post was based on information provided to me in two OIA requests I made of the Ministry of Justice. I like to think that my request was drafted sufficiently clearly that the Ministry of Justice would know that the data I was seeking needed to provide a fair comparison, however this appears not to have been the case.

In relevant part, my request was:

I would like to be able to compare these numbers to the the previous five years (essentially looking at what the numbers would have been had the three strikes regime commenced five years earlier), so to enable a comparison, please also provide the following information:

How many convictions were there between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2010 for a "serious violent offence" that was committed after a conviction had been entered for an earlier serious violent offence that was itself committed after 1 April 2005?

In respect of all questions I am asking only about offences committed by someone who was at least 18 at the time of their offending.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in contact. I have chosen the date ranges as they cover the same period before and after the entry into force of the three strikes regime, if your records are collated in a different way (e.g. calendar year), please feel free to respond with information in that way instead, but it does seem important to cover the same amount of time before and after the change to have a fair comparison.

In response to a question from Ms Mcdonald seeking to confirm the numbers released to me were comparable, the Ministry of Justice advised her that “data was extracted based on the date the charges were laid, irrespective of when the offences were committed or when a conviction was entered.” This is obviously important when drawing a comparison with three strikes, as the date of offending and the date of conviction are fundamental to whether there are strike consequences.

I am unsure why I was provided information about charges that were laid during the relevant time period, irrespective of when he offences were committed or when a conviction was entered in response to my request. Admittedly I am biased, but at least on my reading of my request, I drew that distinction.

Clearly, before publishing by post, I ought to have double-checked with the Ministry of Justice that the information that was supplied was the information that I had intended to seek (and still think I did seek) as it appears that upon being asked to do so, they have been able to confirm it was not relatively quickly.

When publishing information, I try to be careful to ensure that it is accurate. I am sorry that you have been misled by something I have written.

Update 2 January 2017: After I published this post, the Ministry of Justice got in contact, apologised for failing to meet the high standards they set themselves, and offered to provide comparable data. A new post, with a fair comparison, is up here.

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