Bar says revamped meth sentencing guidelines not about going easy on drug offending

by Sol Dolor 23 Oct 2019

The New Zealand Bar Association (NZBA) says that the revamp to the sentencing guidelines for methamphetamine-linked crimes is not about going easy on drug offending.

The Court of Appeal on Monday handed down a decision that provides for a more flexible approach to the sentencing of people convicted of crimes related to the importation, manufacture, and supply of methamphetamine.

“The decision is about assessing the real culpability in each case and it reflects the need to find more effective ways of dealing with serious drug offending. Those who are involved at the very top levels, where there is commerciality, involvement by organised crime or exploitation of others, will still be dealt with severely and receive lengthy terms of imprisonment,” said James Rapley QC, who led the submissions for the NZBA.

The NZBA and the New Zealand Law Society said in submissions that sentencing should have a greater focus on the role of the offender rather than solely focusing on the quantity of the drug involved in the offending. The court accepted both submissions, a move which has been welcomed by the NZBA.

Offenders with a relatively low level of blame and responsibility for a methamphetamine-linked crime previously needed to be sentenced to jail because of the Appeal Court decision, R v Fatu, which introduced sentencing bands based on the quantity of methamphetamine involved in the crime.

“Courts now have a greater flexibility when sentencing for this kind of offending, and judges can now take into account a range of personal factors in drug sentencing and consider more rehabilitative sentencing options,” Rapley said. “This is important because it reflects a greater awareness that methamphetamine addiction is a serious health concern that cannot be addressed by traditional ways of punishment.”