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The Government needs to stop looking for excuses to go soft on crime and come up with a plan to reduce crime, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“No doubt the report today from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor saying that being tough on crime is to blame for rising prison costs and inmate numbers is music to Andrew Little and Grant Robertson's ears.

“They've been looking for excuses to loosen up bail and sentencing laws so that the Government doesn’t have to go ahead with building the new Waikeria prison and can boast about reducing prison numbers.

“But the cost of prisons cannot be an excuse not to put people in prison, if that’s where they need to be. The priority must be to ensure that victims are kept safe from violent criminals.

“We know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending.

“Violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011 and this is largely the type of crime that people get sent to prison for. This is also the type of crime that has the most serious and long-lasting impact on victims’ lives.

“That’s why perpetrators of violent crime must be taken out of our communities and into a place where they can’t hurt others and where they can get rehabilitation.

“Tightening up bail laws was part of ensuring this because we know that a very large number of people go on to commit more crimes and rack up more victims while on bail.

“Part of the reason violent crime has gone up is because there’s been a stronger focus on family violence in the last few years, meaning more people are coming forward to report incidents of family violence and police and the courts are taking the issue more seriously.

“It’s worrying that the Government scrapped National’s target to reduce crime and instead introduced a target to reduce the prison population.

“Surely the measure of success must be to reduce the number of victims, not the number of prisoners, because if we can do the former we achieve the latter.

“It’s time the Government realised that and got on with developing a plan to reduce crime.”

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