Former National minister to head justice advisory reform group

In what I think is a smart move Minister of Justice Andrew Little has appointed former National MP Chester Borrows to head a criminal justice reform advisory group.

Borrows was a police officer before getting a law degree and practicing as a lawyer before becoming an MP, and served a term as Minister of Courts, so looks to have a good background.

RNZ: Chester Borrows to head criminal justice advisory reform group

Mr Little said Mr Borrows was the obvious choice to chair the group because of his experience in the justice sector.

“I was keen to have Chester on board because of his background as a former frontline police officer, prosecuting sergeant and then later as a defence counsel after he got his law degree.

“He knows the political system, he was a minister outside cabinet, he was a deputy speaker of parliament – he brings a good understanding of the political process as well.”

Mr Little will announce the other members of the advisory group later today.

He said his advice to them was to be “bold” and “courageous” with their recommendations while drawing on experience, science and data.

“We should all be incredibly concerned at a reoffending rate of those in prison of 60 percent within two years of release – that to me is a failure.”

Borrows says that he never liked the three strikes law and was forced to vote for it by the party whipping system.

In his first interview ahead of Justice Minister Andrew Little announcing the group later today, Mr Borrows has blamed political parties’ self-interest in staying in power for the lack of progress in law and order reform.

An example was the three strikes law introduced by National and ACT under the previous government, which Mr Borrows said National never supported but was introduced to appease their confidence and supply partner.

“Three strikes was never part of National’s plan, it came up as a political move because they needed a confidence and supply partner and that was it. I never liked it, I sent that back.

“Unfortunately it was a party vote and you fall under the whip on those occasions and that’s what happened.”

The reality of party politics.

Many of the problems facing the criminal justice sector today were the same issues Mr Borrows dealt with as a police officer decades ago, he said.

“That is because law and order policy is so frequently governed by politics and not by a sensitive and sensible approach to it.”

“If you’ve got politicians too scared to introduce policy that actually might work because it’s seen to be soft on crime they won’t do it because of how it might be reflected in the ballot box.”

There will always be failures in the justice system, some of them high profile and they will be used to by crime and punishment activists.

But Borrows sounds like he could be a good person to lead the review.

And Little looks like a Minister who wants to make a significant difference – but he has a potential problem, party politics, or more to the point, Winston Peters and NZ First.

But with Borrows’ connection to National he may be able to get them onside with justice reform to get the votes with Labour that will get it through Parliament.

I might be able to contribute to the review in a minor way. I now have three years experience dealing with the justice system (ongoing with a possible third appeal plus I have now been dragged into a bankruptcy proceeding as a creditor in which Dermot Nottingham is trying to avoid paying about $220k in court costs that he keeps appealing).

Courts are under a lot of time pressure due to increasing workloads and resigning judges. One problem I have experienced is their lenience with misguided lay litigators who repeatedly fail to follow legal procedures and repeatedly ignore court directions and timetables, and flood proceedings with large amounts of irrelevant paperwork. They should get tough on this, it will save some time in the court system.

And while private prosecutions are an important part of our judicial system they are too easily open to abuse by vexatious litigants who try to inflict costs in protracted hopeless cases.

 

21 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  July 12, 2018

    a good choice .Borrows is a reasonable,decent person from a party that doesn’t have…many.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 12, 2018

      You would be a poor judge of that.

      • Blazer

         /  July 12, 2018

        who would be a good judge of…that?

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  July 12, 2018

          Someone who actually knew the people involved and had no political axe to grind.

  2. Grimm

     /  July 12, 2018

    Little has basically given up. It’s all too hard, so rather than admit defeat, he’ll get yet another working group to be the fall-guy.

    Just another fool that was full of bluster and bullshit in opposition.

    • Blazer

       /  July 12, 2018

      absurd.

      • Grimm

         /  July 12, 2018

        He’s given up on three strikes, his key platform for months. He’s given up on not using PPP’s to build prisons, the thing he was most vocal about when National did it.

        What’s left? Of his credility and his policy?

        • Zedd

           /  July 12, 2018

          what a comparison ?
          9 loooong years of bluff/bluster V 9 months of trying to get their agenda in place.. make REAL sense (not) 😦

          • Grimm

             /  July 12, 2018

            What bluff/bluster did National have over law and order for 9 years?

            The point is that Littles agenda is failing at every hurdle, after ONLY nine months. That’s why he needs a working group. He can then share the failure around.

            • Zedd

               /  July 12, 2018

              ‘What bluff/bluster did National have over law and order for 9 years?’ sez Grimm

              1) using projected prison population as a business plan for growth & privatisation

              2) refusing to address medicinal cannabis & continuing the arrest/prosecute

              3) using prisons as holding cells for drug addiction & mental illness rather than address the root causes

              just as a start….

            • Grimm

               /  July 12, 2018

              Pity that Little has given up already then, don’t you think?

  3. Blazer

     /  July 12, 2018

    dead right Zedd…

    • Grimm

       /  July 12, 2018

      What’s been privatised? Or even defunded as a precurser?

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 12, 2018

      Chomsky overlooks (presumably deliberately) that government expenditure has risen inexorably. There has been no defunding.

      • Blazer

         /  July 12, 2018

        Govt expenditure has increased but there is still a shortfall as the muster increases.
        You only need to look at private prisons in the US …Global research…

        ‘PRIVATE PRISONS

        The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in the 1990s under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

        Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

        IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

        Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals’

    • Corky

       /  July 12, 2018

      According to SST, Chester Borrows once told families of murder victims that murderers were also victims. Is it any wonder this disgrace was selected by Andrew Little. Other advisory group members are a Maori radicle and an apologist for gangs.

  4. Gezza

     /  July 12, 2018

    What this government needs to be doing is planning for & costing out all the mental health, drug addiction, literacy training, skills training, moral & personal responsibility & civic education, supervisory & follow up helper services, & employment services, that will be needed to turn the recidivist & persistent offender situation around. Society is going to have to address 3 generations of damaged & disadvantaged kids, girls & boys, who have grown up in & gone on perpetuating their own dysfunctional backgrounds. This is where Whanau Ora seemed to be going, but there wasn’t enuf funding.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 12, 2018

      The costs are unaffordable until better methods are developed. The Govt needs to recruit and incentivise the innovative private sector. It won’t because of ideology.