National Party Leader Simon Bridges says law and order, and the safety and security of New Zealanders, will be one of his core priorities as Leader of the Opposition.

“We have a Government that wants to cut the prison muster without first reducing crime,” Mr Bridges says. “That sort of ‘catch and release’ approach will put New Zealanders at risk.

“Around 98 per cent of people in our prisons are there for some of the most serious and violent types of crimes – including serious assaults, burglary, sexual violence and murder.

“The damage these people cause is immeasurable and their punishment shouldn’t be lessened just because the Government has an ideological view that there should be fewer people in prison.

“I know this first hand, having spent years as a Crown prosecutor putting serious offenders behind bars.

“The previous National Government responded to public safety concerns and made it harder for serious offenders to get bail. We shouldn’t make it easier for them to get out again just for the sake of reducing prison numbers.

“The Ardern-Peters Government needs a plan to reduce crime and deal with existing prisoners, rather than just reducing prisoner numbers.

“We need to help people move away from a life of desperation and crime. In Government, National had a huge focus on that and achieved real success - overall crime dropped but the rate of serious crime remains too high.

“Through our social investment approach we educated prisoners and gave them practical skills so they have a better chance of finding work when they are released.

“We also invested in drug and alcohol courts and treatment, and we started rolling out courts specifically targeting young Māori to help improve their lives before they ended up in prison.

“To safely reduce prison numbers you need to reduce crime and to do that you need the right plans and policies in place.

“This Government doesn’t have either and its stated intention to release more prisoners is dangerous and we won’t let it happen without a fight.”

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