Govt takes further action against gang crime

 Govt takes further action against gang crime

The Government will make it illegal for high risk people to own firearms by introducing Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) that will strengthen action already taken to combat the influence of gangs and organised crime to help keep New Zealanders and their families safe, Police Minister Poto Williams and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi have announced.

“It is no secret that gun crime is an increasing concern to our communities and we need to take further action to make sure New Zealanders and their families are kept safe,” Police Minister Poto Williams said.

“It is a privilege, not a right, to own or use a gun in this country and we need to take that ability out of the hands of people who pose a threat to our communities.

FPOs will protect the public from harm by prohibiting high-risk people from accessing, being around, or using firearms. Breaching the conditions of a Firearms Prohibition Order will be a criminal offence.

“This Government is very clear that violent gangs and other criminals cannot continue to threaten, intimidate, and exploit our communities. Firearms Prohibition Orders provide an extra tool for Police to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, and to keep our communities safe.

“This complements work this Government has already taken, including a record investment in Police meaning we have been able to go hard against gangs and organised crime networks. We have the largest Police workforce ever, with 700 officers to be focused on organised crime.

Alongside this, the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will be amended to introduce a new power enabling seizure of assets of those associated with organised crime – where the person’s known legitimate income is likely to have been insufficient to acquire the asset.

“We’re hitting gangs where it hurts – their pockets. This new organised crime power will help prevent those involved in organised crime from benefitting from crime and remove the primary reason for organised crime to exist – the profits they can make from vulnerable New Zealanders,” Kris Faafoi said.

“Those involved in organised crime, including those who launder their money, would have to demonstrate their assets were obtained legitimately.

“These reforms signal that those who choose to be associated with groups  actively undertaking criminal activities in our communities are liable to have their property subject to investigation by the Commissioner of Police and risk wider asset forfeiture,” said Kris Faafoi.

Police have a proven track record in restraining and recovering proceeds of crime with over $1billion restrained since the legislation came into being, and this amendment to the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will enhance this capacity

“Through Labour’s record investment in more police, we are seeing more investigators and specialists focusing on serious and organised crime, at national and district level,” Poto Williams said.

“Labour’s record investment in Police has supported Police to undertake investigations such as Operation Tauwhiro, a national operation launched by Police in February targeting the disruption and prevention of firearms-related violence by criminal gangs and organised criminal groups. Since Operation Tauwhiro launched in February, 350 firearms have been seized, along with $2.46 million in cash. 378 people have been arrested in relation to firearms offences,” Poto Williams said.

Both the Firearms Prohibition Order Bill, and the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Amendment Bill will be introduced into the House before the end of the year, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on the bills when they are referred to select committee.

Media contact for Minister Williams: Georgina O’Reilly 027 338 5018

Media contact for Minister Faafoi: Peter Stevens 021 871 354

Notes to editors

·       The Government’s Firearms Prohibition Orders will offer additional controls on specified people, for instance, controls on where a person may reside or visit. They also will ensure that a person subject to an Order cannot use a firearm under the supervision of a licensed firearm owner.

·       A person subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order cannot own, use, access or be around firearms. Unless the Court says otherwise, they also cannot reside in locations where there are firearms, visit specific locations where there are firearms, or associate with someone who has a firearm on them. Breaching the conditions of the Firearms Prohibition Order will be a criminal offence.

·       Qualifying offences will be serious firearms offences (those which would disqualify someone from holding a firearms licence), serious violent offences (as defined in section 86A of the Sentencing Act 2002), an offence of participation in an organised criminal group (section 98A of the Crimes Act 1961), and terrorism-related offences under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

·       The penalties envisaged would depend on which conditions the person had breached: A person who was found in possession or control of a firearm would face a penalty of up to five years imprisonment, or up to seven years imprisonment if the firearm was a prohibited firearm.

  • If the person breached a condition such as residing in a location where there were firearms, or visiting a prohibited location such as gun shop, the penalty would be up to two years imprisonment.
  • There would also be an offence if another person knowingly supplied a firearm to a person subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order. This offence would have a penalty of up to five years imprisonment, or up to seven years imprisonment if the firearm was a prohibited firearm. This recognises the risk posed by providing firearms to a person that is a subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order.

·       Someone subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order can still associate with friends and family who have a firearms licence, providing the licence holder has securely stored their firearms. However, the subject person would not be able to reside in a place where firearms are kept, or associate with a person who has a firearm on or about them, for instance, they won’t be able to go hunting with someone who has a firearm.  And the person subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order would not be able to visit locations such as arms fairs, firearms dealers or manufacturers, firearms clubs, or shooting ranges.

·       A Firearms Prohibition Order would last for 10 years. It cannot be renewed. However, a person can be subject to a subsequent Firearms Prohibition Order if they are convicted of a subsequent qualifying offence, and the Court considers it appropriate to impose another Firearms Prohibition Order.

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