The referendum also influenced political discourse in New Zealand, with politicians increasingly using ‘tough on crime’ policies in election campaigns as it was believed that this was what ‘the public’ wanted when it came to criminal justice issues.  

As part of these developments, the thesis examines the rise of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, a unique law and order pressure group that advocates for victims’ rights and the harsh treatment of offenders. The Trust became an increasingly authoritative voice in both the public and political arena, as public sentiments came to overrule expert knowledge in the administration of penal policy.

Ultimately, it argues that the power of penal populism is so strong in New Zealand that attempts to resist it are likely to come to little, unless these forces that brought it to prominence can be addressed and negated. To date, this has not happened.