Former police officer turned criminal barrister, Tony Bouchier, has criticized Act’s Law and Order policies, labeling them as mere political grandstanding for the masses, although his views appear to run counter to an earlier Law Society article on battling crime.
Act leader David Seymour recently reiterated his party’s tough stance on crime, saying the rate of crime in New Zealand was making the country a ‘third world’ country.
Crime in central Auckland has become the ‘new normal’ according to retailers and residents as reports of criminal activity have become a daily occurrence.
However the measures proposed by the ACT Party are the subject of criticism by Bouchier. The measures include:
- Imposing harsher sentences for serious crimes.
- Expanding the prison system.
- Reinstating the Three Strikes policy.
- Tasking the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) with investigating the illegal earnings of gang members.
- Eliminating cultural reports.
- Revoking firearms licenses for gang members and increasing sentences for crimes against vulnerable workers.
Bouchier, who now practices as a criminal barrister in Auckland and had served on David Bain’s legal team, argued that Act’s rhetoric is part of a larger political cycle in which crime becomes a convenient topic for political parties during elections.
He believes that the real issue lies in the number of police officers assigned to desk duties instead of actively pursuing criminals. Bouchier says the primary deterrent to crime is the likelihood of being apprehended while committing an offense.
In an early interview with the Law Society’s magazine (2020) he said that the creation of further police was a “misdirected solution” to the crime problem as more police lead to more arrests.
“The problem is the more police you have out there, the more people that are being arrested. Those people are being pushed into a system that is under-resourced and it’s just causing more capacity problems in the justice system itself,” he said at the time.
Bouchier criticized the current political climate, where crime becomes a focal point and a competition between parties to appear tough on the issue. He claims that the Criminal Bar Association, of which he had previously served as President, had contacted all major parties to discourage the use of crime and sentencing as political tools.
The focus on being tough on crime overlooks the effectiveness of the current approach, citing a reduction in the prison population from nearly 11,000 in 2018 to about 7,500, he says.
Bouchier emphasized that politicians lack the expertise to make informed decisions about crime and punishment, highlighting the ineffectiveness of the Three Strikes law in the United States and New Zealand. He also questioned the necessity of using the IRD to monitor gang members’ income, suggesting that such efforts were already underway.
Despite public sentiment that criminals are running the country, Bouchier disagreed with this perception, calling it an exaggeration. He believes that the current system, despite its imperfections, is more effective than some critics suggest.