Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Oops: how some prisoners serving life sentences get to vote

11 Responses

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I should point out that there are a large number of other prisoners who can vote, and could vote under the old law, including people on remand, people on extradition warrants, those imprisoned for non-payment of fines, people imprisoned for contempt of court and others.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Grassed Up,

    Nice.

    Since Nov 2008 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    Graeme,

    This really is excellent work (and sorry for my snippiness on another comment thread – more fool me for not recognising the importance of the issue).

    Did the OIA give you the names of the prisoners who would have been barred from voting, but now can? I’d be keen to do a post listing them and the crimes for which they were sentenced, and thanking Paul Quinn (with the support of David Farrar and active assistance of Sandra Goudie) for allowing them to reclaim their democratic entitlements, whilst removing it from burglars and disqualified drivers who happen to be in jail on election day.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Prison Manager link broken.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    Now I'm curious - does this apply to suspended sentences, or only served ones? For example, if someone is sentenced to (say) 1 year suspended, can they vote during that time?

    I'm curious because in the rare cases where white collar criminals are sentenced to prison it's often suspended to encourage them not to get caught again. This would be a way to actually irritate those people.

    Also, does not being able to vote also mean you can't legally donate to political parties? Sorry, don't follow the law that closely (but I should, since I donate... ooops). I know those laws are toothless and rarely enforced (John Banks notwithstanding), but attacking it from the underside would be one way to get enforcement. Especially if the major penalty was effectively resumption of sentence...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    I was wondering what the rationale behind disenfranchising prisoners is. I find the idea of disenfranchising any citizen abhorrent. So what if they've committed a crime (or been overseas for over three years), they're still citizens, still have a valid interest in their country's governance, and should not be stripped of such a fundamental right in a democracy. I've read a bit too much about the unequal effects on different racial communities of disenfranchisement laws in various states of the US for the idea of it happening in NZ to not worry me.

    Also, the People's Republic of China strips people of their political rights (such as they are) for fixed periods as a punishment for crime. How's that comparison feel?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Did the OIA give you the names of the prisoners who would have been barred from voting, but now can?

    No. I didn't ask, and if I had asked, would have been disappointed to be told.

    I can't guess what the 160 prisoners serving determinate sentences are in for, but I would be suprised if any of the (up to) 31 lifers were in for anything other than murder (but possibly murder and other offences), or any of the (up to) six preventive detainees for anything other than serious sexual offences. One or two may be exceptions to these rules, but as any sentences would have been imposed by ~2000 at the latest, this seems unlikely.

    It is of course possible that some of these prisoners were otherwise disqualified as at 16 December 2010 (it's not Corrections' job to know this), or that Corrections have answered my query with an answer that misinterpreted my query and have overtstated the number in some way from what I expected their answer to mean (I expected there to be some, but 31 lifers was higher than I anticipated).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    It is of course possible that some of these prisoners were otherwise disqualified as at 16 December 2010 (it's not Corrections' job to know this)...

    But highly unlikely, no?

    They'll all be over 18. If they weren't NZ Citizens or permanent residents, they'd have been deported on release (thus not be subject to recall). And they certainly will have been in NZ for more than 12 months consecutively, whilst they haven't been outside of NZ for more than 3 (or 1) years.

    I _suppose_ they may be on the corrupt practices list ... but, nah.

    The only real possibility would be that as of 16 December, 2010 someone had been released from their prison sentence, but was still detained under a compulsory treatment order (which they had been subject to for 3 years).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to Moz,

    Now I'm curious - does this apply to suspended sentences, or only served ones?

    Only to served ones (i.e. to persons "detained in a prison pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment").

    Also, does not being able to vote also mean you can't legally donate to political parties?

    Any person who is resident in New Zealand may give as much as they want to any political party or candidate.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Thank you sir, you're a gentleman.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • steve black,

    Oh what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to be spiders.

    sunny mt albert • Since Jan 2007 • 116 posts Report Reply

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