Earlier this week I posed some questions to Finance Minister Bill English about his support for the government’s plan to spend a billion dollars on a new prison. I was pretty disappointed in his answers, all of which flew in the face of his own comments in the past acknowledging that prisons were a moral and fiscal failure.
I would love to know who is calling the shots in the National government’s cabinet when it comes to deciding how best to spend taxpayers’ money. On the evidence of the last few weeks, it definitely isn’t Finance Minister Bill English making the calls.
Our increase in prison numbers – ‘average’ numbers of incarcerated offenders have more than doubled over the last twenty years – is not because New Zealanders are becoming more lawless or because the crime rate is increasing (they aren’t, and it isn’t).
A week ago I visited Lillestrøm, a short train journey to the north-east of Oslo and the site of the KRUS Correctional Service Training Academy the Norwegian training school for prison officers.
Our legal and political systems owe a lot to the Westminster model. When you get up close and personal, though, it’s apparent that there are subtle and not so subtle differences in structure as well as scale.
As Parliament goes into recess for two weeks, I’m heading away first to UK, then to Northern Europe. The purpose of my trip, somewhat unusually, is to visit and learn more about prisons and prison systems.
Teina Pora spent 21 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, shafted by a Police investigation that prioritised an investigator’s hunch over the pursuit of credible evidence. Yesterday’s announcement that the government is to pay him $2.5m in compensation is a sorely-needed acknowledgment of Pora’s suffering. It’s also typical of this government’s tendency […]
Parliament’s Law and Order select committee (of which I am a member) has today called for public submissions to its firearms inquiry. This conversation should have been live since last year, when the Police Association started talking about their concerns over the increasing number of firearms that officers were finding in the hands of people […]
A quick year-end pop-quiz – which government department has had a 220% increase in its budget over the last decade, but has still managed to end this year mired in mismanagement, under-performance, violence and mayhem; requiring a multi-million dollar emergency cash injection to keep the whole catastrophe afloat? Corrections, take a bow. Of all the portfolios […]
In the current issue of LawTalk, New Zealand Law Society President-Elect Kathryn Beck told readers that “We need to have a look at our justice system – and when I say we, I don’t mean just the law profession, I mean Parliament and other stakeholders.” She added – We are all well aware of the […]
On any given day, there are about 20,000 New Zealand children who have a parent in prison. These kids often have a very tough time – while they have done no crime, they are nevertheless serving a sentence. We know that these kids are seven times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than others, […]
Last Monday morning bright and early (well, early at least) I knocked on the door of a house in Hamilton East, a house that looks quite ordinary from the outside, but where every week day morning something quite extraordinary happens. I was warmly welcomed, handed a cup of tea, and over the next few minutes […]
Following the exoneration of Teina Pora for the murder of Suzanne Burdett earlier this year, there’s been a lot of valuable discussion in the media and in our communities about miscarriages of justice and whether our justice system is effectively set up to deal with them. There has been a high level of public interest […]
In 2010, National rammed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill through Parliament. Paul Quinn’s Member’s Bill existed because Paul Quinn thought anyone who’d been imprisoned was a serious offender, and serious offenders had ‘forfeited’ their right to vote. National and ACT consistently voted for it because they all thought the same. Since then, […]
“Intensive psychological treatment and early release to parole is far more effective at reducing reoffending among high risk prisoners than serving out the full prison sentence.” That’s reportedly the finding of Surviving the First Year, a recently-released study into Corrections’ STURP initiative conducted by Victoria University of Wellington psychology professor Devon Polaschek. This Stuff article […]
This Wednesday just past, I was privileged to attend the Kerikeri launch of Signpost North, a new online magazine covering the Bay of Islands and the Far North. Spearheaded by Sandy Myhre, a journalist with a lot of passion for the Northland region, Signpost North will be published monthly, and the first issue is available […]
Sir Peter Williams QC leaves behind an enormous legacy not only in New Zealand, but also around the world. In a career that spanned 60 years, he was never one to shy away from the big and difficult issues. Some of his more notorious cases established him as a man who would fight for the […]
In 2013, Julie Macfarlane, a Canadian law professor, conducted a study into self-represented litigants. Interviewing some 280 self-represented litigants, she was struck by “how traumatised people are by the experiences they’re having, how many lives are getting wrecked, how much anger and frustration is out there.” There’s no doubt that the symptoms of the ‘justice […]
Over the last three blog posts, we’ve seen how changes to our justice system made by the National government have resulted in a massive systemic failure to make justice accessible to those in need. Today I’m writing about the negative impact of the justice gap on the Family Court, which is suffering the most under […]
So why are so many people opting for self-representation? What does this mean for them, and for our justice system? Being a Self-Represented Litigant Self-representation seems appealing on the face of it. Theoretically, it gives the litigant total control over the part they play in proceedings, and it keeps their costs down. Most fundamentally, it […]
Yesterday, I wrote about the ‘justice gap’ – the inevitable consequence of a ‘user pays’ justice system that abandons those people most vulnerable to exploitation. The most obvious symptom of this is the rising number of self-represented litigants: take the figures in yesterday’s post, evidence of a grim problem in need of urgent attention. The […]
Amy Adams recently told the legal profession that the National government respected the rule of law. It always would. Anyone who thought the rule of law was in danger of being compromised was a ‘scaremonger’. The subtext was clear: Trust us. We know what we’re doing. Adams was talking about the recent controversy around the […]
It was good to hear the news that a mana whenua delegation is heading north, a long way north, to make their views known about the proposed oil drilling off the Northland coast. The roopu will be representing iwi and hapu from Te Hiku o Te Ika, including Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Kahu and Te Rārawa, as […]
The adage about the first casualty of war being truth is one that might often be applied to the political battle for hearts and minds, and of course votes. A rather unfortunate example of this has been arriving in the letterboxes of Northland voters over the last few days, and it does no credit to […]
In the last year, 24 community law centres across the country have given over 150,000 hours of legal advice and assistance to 48,527 people who could not otherwise access or afford it. Meanwhile, a million people a year access the Community Law Manual at communitylaw.org.nz, obtaining information and educating themselves about their rights in our […]
This year’s election inquiry will look into 2014’s general election. So far, James Shaw has done a series of blogs on this issue, including a submission guide. Mojo Mathers has also written a blog on accessible voting. I thought this would be a great time to raise an issue that I have written a lot […]
It should seem obvious to employers, private or public, that it’s important to do what you can to retain your best, most experienced staff. They make life easier for you because they’re effective, attentive and often respected by those around them; they carry years of invaluable institutional knowledge with them; they pass that knowledge on […]
Last year, I wrote a blog on the High Court’s ruling about whether prisoners should be allowed to vote. The matter has come up again with Arthur Taylor having launched a case against John Key’s election in the Helensville electorate. Taylor is arguing that the results were invalid because 650 prisoners in Paremoremo Prison were […]
Arming our Police will lead to more crime, more violence, and more killings – by criminals, and potentially even by police. The Police Commissioner is correct in pointing out that the Police Association’s recent call to arm all officers is not backed up by evidence, and could indeed be counter-productive. Statistics show assaults on Police […]
The rankings for universities around the world were released today, with disappointing results for NZ’s universities. Three out of five of our institutions dropped down the rankings from last year, with the remaining two holding their position. Universities New Zealand, while trying to emphasise the positive – that our universities still rank in the top […]
The High Court has ruled that the courts can look at whether prisoners should be allowed to vote. ‘Jailhouse lawyer’ Arthur Taylor took up the issue of prisoners’ voting rights and wanted a declaration that the current law, which bans all prisoners from voting, was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act (BORA). However, the […]
The serious part of the equation was in the purpose of the ride, which was to raise public awareness and discussion about suicide in New Zealand, and particularly youth suicide.
Teachers and other people who choose to work in education are generally quite positive, upbeat people – I think a sense of humour is a prerequisite to surviving and thriving in that environment! Despite that, I’m seeing a lot of long faces and stressed people when I visit tertiary institutions, and the Tertiary Education Union […]
There’s only a week left to have your say on the Government’s changes to university and wānanga councils. Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has put forward dramatic changes to the way uni and wānanga councils are made up – removing the student, staff and community reps, cutting the total number of members, and, as a […]
A recent article by Jacqueline Rowarth, Professor of Agribusiness at Waikato University, gives a very good summary of this government’s muddled thinking (my words, not hers!) about the value of science and scientists. On one hand we have Minister Joyce trumpeting the importance of science, and attempting to wield some very blunt instruments to ‘encourage’ […]
Last night parliament debated the Industry Training and Apprenticeships Bill – a Government bill that makes changes to apprenticeships and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs), based on the findings of a recent review into industry training in New Zealand. We originally supported this bill, because of some of the tidy-ups it was making to the sector […]
Public submissions are now open on the Government’s changes to the Education Act. The bill makes a number of changes to the compulsory and tertiary education sectors. Most notably, this bill is the vehicle for Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce to take control of University and Wānanga councils. The Government is removing the democratically elected […]
While visiting Christchurch this week, I spent time catching up on how the rebuild is going for the University of Canterbury, and what the future looks like for this vital institution, its students and staff. It’s not that we forget how devastating the earthquakes have been for this region, but it has been striking how […]
Last Friday I was privileged to join with Maori members of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) at NorthTec’s Te Puna o Te Matauranga Marae in Whangarei. The purpose of the hui was to launch and celebrate Te Kaupapa Whaioranga – the Blueprint for Maori Tertiary Education. The well-attended hui included Maori educators from all around […]
A line in my speech to the candidate conference last Sunday seems to have generated some interest. I spoke “…of restoring to health the offender and those offended against, of an obligation to respect human rights even as we punish”. The Greens’ approach to justice is based on a restorative approach – as outlined in […]