Repeal of the three strikes law

The Government is moving to repeal the mandatory sentencing regime commonly known as the three strikes law.

The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010 created what is commonly known as the three strikes law. The law was intended to deter repeat offenders with the threat of progressively longer mandatory prison terms, and to penalise those who continued to re-offend through a three-stage process.

Concerns around the three strikes law have included:

  • there is little evidence that the law has reduced serious offending
  • it restricts the judiciary’s ability to consider the individual circumstances and context of the offending when determining sentences
  • Māori are overrepresented in the group of offenders who have received a strike
  • the Court of Appeal has found sentences imposed under the regime contravene the Bill of Rights Act
  • the Courts can already impose sentences equivalent to those under the three strikes law, when it is considered appropriate

In addition to repealing the Three Strikes law for future offences, Cabinet has considered how to treat those already sentenced under the law. Undoing the impact of the law on people sentenced under it would require retrospective change.

Cabinet decided that, as there is no simple legislative measure that can fix the unfairness of sentences handed down without causing uncertainty and stress for victims, the proposed Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill will require that offenders sentenced under the three strikes law serve out their sentence as originally imposed.

However, Cabinet has decided that the approach to those who have already been sentenced under the law should be considered by the Justice Select Committee. The Committee will have the chance to hear from the public and other interested parties on this issue as a basis for recommendations to Parliament. Anyone who wants to have their say on this issue is encouraged to get involved in the Select Committee process.

How the three strikes regime works

There are 40 qualifying three strike offences, comprising all major violent and sexual offences with a maximum penalty of seven years or greater imprisonment.

If an offender is convicted of a strike offence (with no previous strike warnings), they receive an official first ‘strike’ warning.

If the offender is convicted of a second qualifying offence, they are given a final warning (second strike), and if they are sentenced to imprisonment, they may serve the full sentence without parole.

If the offender is then convicted of a third qualifying offence the court must impose the maximum applicable penalty without parole, unless the court considers it would be manifestly unjust to do so.

Finally, if the offender is convicted of murder on their second or third strike the court may impose a life sentence without parole, unless the court considers the sentence manifestly unjust.

Making a submission

Stakeholders, interest groups, advisory groups and the public will be able to have their say on the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill when submissions open as part of the consideration of the draft Bill by the Justice Select Committee.

Check the Beehive website(external link) to find out when public submissions are open.

Related documents

RIA - repeal of the three strikes law [PDF, 3.3 MB]

Cabinet paper - repeal of the three strikes law [PDF, 1.5 MB]

SWC 21 MIN 0082 [PDF, 734 KB]

CAB 21 MIN 0230 [PDF, 746 KB]

Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill: Approval for Introduction [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Departmental Disclosure Statement: Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill [PDF, 1.3 MB]

LEG 21 MIN 0127 [PDF, 740 KB]

CAB 21 MIN 0387 [PDF, 1.3 MB]