More talk on ‘drug use is a health issue’ but where’s the action?

More talk but still a lack of action on drug abuse issues.

Minister of Police Stuart Nash talks some talk on addressing drug problems, but his Government is still failing to walk any meaningful walk on addressing urgent drug abuse issues.

RadioLive: Drug use should be treated ‘as a health issue’ – Stuart Nash

So why the fuck doesn’t the Government take urgent action to do that?

Police Minister Stuart Nash is refusing to say whether he’s for or against ending marijuana prohibition, but appears to be leaning in favour.

“I’m not going to give you a yes or no, because I want to see what this looks like,” he told host Duncan Garner.

“I’ll weigh up the benefits and I’ll vote accordingly.”

But as long as there are sufficient social services in place to deal with the harmful effects of marijuana, Mr Nash appears to be in favour of legalisation.

But the Government seems to be dragging the chain on this – they opposed Chloe Swarbrick’s bill, their own bill is limited to medicinal use of cannabis and they are not exactly rushing on that, and while greens got a promise of a referendum on cannabis law before or at the next election there is no sign of action there.

Drug abuse is already a major health and crime and prison issue. people continue to die, lives continue to be ruined, and all Nash does is parrot ‘drugs should be treated as a health issue’.

“I was incredibly proud of Jacinda Ardern not to sign up to Donald Trump’s new war on drugs,” he added. “We need to treat this as a health issue – the police are doing this, we’re doing this as a society.”

But nowhere enough, and nowhere near urgently enough.

He said the police are already using discretion not to criminalise drug users – even those consuming hard drugs.

“We refuse to treat every single addict out there as a criminal. This is a health issue. An example – Operation Daydream, this is going after the meth dealers and suppliers. Police did that, they rounded them up.

“After that they went to all the addicts and instead of putting them in front of a judge, as they have done in the past, they put them in front of social services to help these people. That’s the sort of society we need to create.”

One approach has had some success. Newsroom: Addiction courts save millions in prison costs

With more than 10,000 people behind bars and total prison costs expected to top $1 billion next year, politicians are desperate for ways to rein in the corrections system.

The problems sometimes seem intractable, the financial and human costs ever-increasing.

But far from the halls of power and policy summits, one approach being employed to stop people offending and going back to prison has had some real success.

Grounded in evidence and criminal justice research, the country’s two Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) courts are tasked with handling one of the toughest, and most costly, cohort of offenders: recidivist criminals.

There is a clear pattern in the lives of this cohort. They commit crimes, go to prison, get released, and then start the cycle again.

In the AODT courts, the offenders also have an added layer of complexity – their offending has been clinically assessed as driven by their alcohol and/or drug addiction.

The two Auckland-based pilot courts, set up nearly seven years ago, have shown interesting results.

Great. So why not have more of this?

In an interview with Newsroom, Justice Minister Andrew Little is positive about the AODT courts, but says any expansion will not occur before a final impact evaluation. This is due to be completed next year.

An interim-evaluation took place four years ago, and showed positive progress.

“I have a personal and principled commitment to seeing more of this, but there is a commitment to doing a more formal evaluation of the court,” he says.

“That is underway. Following that, [will be] the basis for making my bid for more resourcing to see more of them.”

Little also alludes to the challenges of pushing for long-term change.

“This is the whole question in the broader criminal justice system. Treasury kind of weighs it every time. There might be greater resources needed at the front-end, but if that means that is resulting in fewer people going to prison, and we are still reducing the reoffending rate significantly and materially, then … that is the right place to put the resources rather than at the far end when it is kind of too late.”

However, for those who understand the improved outcomes achieved through AODT courts, waiting for another evaluation is a tough ask. Feedback from the recent Justice Summit in Wellington included queries around when other parts of New Zealand would have access to AODT courts.

As drink driving researcher Gerald Waters puts it: “I’ve also looked at all offending in New Zealand – 80 percent of crime is alcohol and drug related. It’s obvious that you shouldn’t be having drug court once a week – you should be having it six days a week with one day for normal crime”.

Like may things under the current Government, after making a big deal with what the achieved in their first 100 days – mostly initiating things that would take more time – Andrew Little ‘says any expansion will not occur before a final impact evaluation. This is due to be completed next year.’

In the meantime, drug use will be in part treated as a health issue, but will remain a large criminal and prison issue until they get off their inquiry laden arses and take urgent and comprehensive action.

Jacinda Ardern has promoted her Government as progressive – it may be, but it seems to be snail’s pace progress on things she and he ministers have claimed to be in need of urgent attention. This is very disappointing.

The most damaging effects of the waka jumping law will be invisible and immeasurable

It is difficult to know what the effect of the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill that passed it’s final vote in Parliament this week. We may never know for sure.

We do know that it has made Labour look like Winston’s patsies, especially Andrew Little who had to front the bill as it went through Parliament. And it showed the Greens as far less principled than they had made out for so long while out of government – this could be damaging to them in the next election.

However Audrey Young says that the most damaging effects will be “invisible and immeasurable” in Winston Peters wastes hard-won power on wretched law.

…the party-hopping bill passed in Parliament ahead of the party’s convention can barely be called an achievement, let alone qualify as a proud one.

It has been Parliament at its worst – indulging a powerful politician with an obsession with defectors.

The law is a fetter on dissent, and Peters’ decision to demand its passage as the price of power stands in contradiction to his own history as a dissenter and maverick.

The law will enable a caucus to fire a duly elected MP not just from the caucus but from Parliament if they decide that MP no longer properly represents the party.

The hypocrisy is galling. Peters built New Zealand First on party-hoppers such as Michael Laws, Peter McCardle and Jack Elder.

In those days, Peters was upholding the freedom of any MP to leave a party without having to leave Parliament if their conscience demanded it.

Self-interested hypocrisy is nothing new for Peters.

It was only when party-hoppers left New Zealand First rather than joined it that the notion became objectionable, to Peters. It was only after MMP that what the voters decided on election day suddenly became sacred to Peters.

Essentially, the new party-hopping law is based on self-interest disguised as principle.

It is a draconian solution to a problem of defection that has not existed since those formative days of MMP.

And Labour and the Greens went along with this and enabled it.

New Zealand First did not campaign on party-hopping at all last election but then put it up as a bottom line in coalition talks, while the vast number of bottom lines actually enunciated by Peters in the campaign were surrendered in the horse-trading of coalition talks.

The law does not have the true support of the majority of the House but the Greens have been blackmailed into supporting it against the alternative – a toxic relationship with Peters.

Electoral law changes should have wide support of any Parliament but the law was railroaded through by a party with 7 per cent of the vote because it held the balance of power at the election.

Will Greens learn from being backed into a corner by Peters and then painting themselves in? They could perhaps gain back some of their credibility on being principled it they  don’t campaign next election on a status quo governing arrangement leaving Peters in a dog wagging position.

The most pernicious effect of the new law is not the actual expulsion of an MP from Parliament. Rather, it is the chilling effect it will have on strong, independent thought and voice of MPs within parties and within Parliament. In turn that will have an impact on the selection of MPs.

The most damaging effects of the law will be invisible and immeasurable.

It was the impact on dissent that drew the harshest criticism from Green luminaries Jeanette Fitzsimons and Keith Locke.

Did Green support of this bill go to party membership for a decision? They used to claim that their membership played a part in any important decisions. Surely they must have done that, especially given that it was a change to electoral law, and it had an obvious impact on the party ethos and integrity.

It has been sad to see a raft of new Labour MPs kowtowing to Peters to convince themselves that the law will enhance democracy when it is really a management tool for Peters to keep potentially difficult MPs in check.

One could wonder what threats or promises were made between Peters and Labour and Green leaderships to make both parties roll over on this for Peters.

Dissent has been a strong theme throughout Peters’ career.

He talked about in his maiden speech in 1979 when he lambasted people whom he saw as destructive critics who criticised for the sake of it: “Opposition, criticism and dissent are worthy pursuits when combined with a sense of responsibility. They have a purifying effect on society. Areas in need of urgent attention can be identified and courses of action may be initiated. However embarrassing to community or national leaders, the results are enormously beneficial to the total well-being of the community. The critic I am [condemning] has no such goals. He sets out to exploit every tremor and spasm in society, the economy or race relations, seeking to use every such event as a vehicle to project his own public personality.”

An unkind person might say that Peters has gained power in New Zealand politics by becoming the sort of critic he so despised in his maiden speech.

It is a remarkable achievement to have built a party, and sustained it, and to be at the peak of his political power when most people his age are checking out retirement villages.

It is also remarkable that Peters should be wasting that power on such a wretched law.

And that Labour and especially the Greens have wasted their integrity by enabling the wretched law to pass with barely a whimper.

 

 

 

 

Bill introduced to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission

Minister of Justice Andrew little has introduced a bill designed to address a deficiency in our judicial system – a better means of addressing possible miscarriages of justice.

The timing of this looks suspiciously like it is designed to bolster Andrew Little’s image after the Waka jumping bill passes third reading yesterday, but it is a much more laudable bill.


Significant step to correct miscarriages of justice

Justice Minister Andrew Little has introduced the Bill to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

“The Government agreed to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission as part of the Labour New Zealand First Coalition agreement,” said Andrew Little.

“A Criminal Cases Review Commission provides a mechanism for addressing miscarriages of justice – this is a priority for the Government.

“The CCRC is an independent body that will review convictions and sentences where there is a suspected miscarriage of justice. It can refer cases back to the appeal courts, but it does not determine guilt or innocence. The CCRC will replace the referral power currently exercised by the Governor-General under section 406 of the Crimes Act 1961.

“The CCRC will be accessible and will take away some of the burden from applicants who require assistance.

“Given the resources the state puts into securing a conviction, I believe there is good reason for it to put adequate resources into correcting mistakes that may have been made. Having a CCRC will ensure there can be investigations into potential miscarriages of justice that are timely, fair and independent.”

“We have consulted with other countries who have CCRCs about their experience, and with senior New Zealand lawyers and academics. Their contributions to the Bill have been invaluable.”

“I look forward to the Select Committee’s consideration of this Bill and welcome public submissions on the Bill,” said Andrew Little.

The key aspects of the Bill are:

  • The test that a case must meet to be referred by the CCRC to the appeal court
  • The power that the CCRC has to access information, the way this power interacts with existing privileges, and the circumstances when the Commission may disclose this information
  • The interaction between the Commission and the residual Royal prerogative exercised by the Governor-General
  • The Commission’s powers to undertake inquiries into practice, policy, procedure, or other matters it considers to be related to miscarriages of justice
  • The ability for the Commission to make its own initial inquiries into a conviction or sentence.

Full text of the Bill

Waka jumping bill passes third reading

All Green MPs have voted with Labour and NZ First to pass the  Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill (commonly referred to as the waka jumping bill), so it will now become law.

Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill passes third reading

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament and will become law, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.

“The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is about enhancing public confidence in the integrity of our electoral system.

“The Bill ensures that it is the voters, not politicians or party leaders, who decide the proportionality of parties in Parliament,” Andrew Little said.

The Bill’s passing fulfils the Government’s coalition commitment to introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill in this term of Parliament.

It has been challenged by some as ‘an attack on democracy’. It is unlikely to actually have much effect, but it will be difficult to know if it has a chilling effect on any MPs who oppose what their party does.

The most notable aspect of the bill is the Greens voting in support of it while strongly opposing it. This has somewhat dented the party’s integrity.

It has also raised questions about Andrew Little’s integrity in promoting the bill on NZ First’s behalf.

The bill is unlikely to make much if any difference to Winston Peters’ control over the NZ First caucus and MPs, but supporting it has been damaging to both Labour and the Greens.  Perhaps that is success for Peters – before Jacinda Ardern took over the Labour leadership last year Peters fancied NZ First’s chances of taking over from Labour as the second largest party in Parliament.

 

 

Little ducking for cover over changes to bail, parole and sentencing laws

Being ‘tough on crime’, prison numbers, and law and order have long been a political football, with successive governments pandering to populist demands for fear of being seen as responsible for awful crimes.

The Labour-led government has an ambitious goal of reversing the prison population by 30%, and have already had some success in reducing them slightly (following on from initiatives started under the previous government), but some difficult decisions will have to be made to come close to meeting their target.

If bail or parole laws and sentencing directives are relaxed it will only take one high profile crime to be committed by someone who otherwise could have been contained in prison for the political football to become a head high tackle on the Minister of Justice and the government responsible.

It is a lot less dramatic and more difficult to quantify to promote that recidivism may be reduced and crimes may have been prevented by better treatment and rehabilitation of offenders.

David Fisher (NZH): Andrew Little ducks for cover as National forecasts tragedy from justice reform

The battle lines are drawn on crime and justice reform and Minister of Justice Andrew Little is in a bunker.

It’s not a great place for a first-term minister but the National Party has driven him there by virtue of how it has stolen a march on precious territory over contested ground.

The struggle Little faces is over possible changes to bail, parole and sentencing laws.

Labour had pledged to cut the prison population by 30 per cent in 15 years and Little has talked of possible changes to those laws.

To meet that target, experts in the field agree those laws will need to be changed.

But Fisher says that Little has been avoiding talking about how this might be done, giving Opposition MPs free shots.

Interviews with leader Simon Bridges and Corrections spokesman David Bennett have seen the National Party politicians repeatedly refer to the Government considering changes to bail, parole and sentencing laws.

It was a possibility Little raised early in the debate around criminal justice reform.

While he might not wish to talk about it now, the National Party will do so – and its message is in lock-step across MPs.

Bridges: “He has to reduce the prison population by a third because he’s not building the prison beds and that really leads inevitably to a softening up of the bail, sentencing, parole laws.”

Bennett: “If they are going to relax those bail and sentencing laws and parole laws they should front up to the NZ public now.”

In forecasting those changes, those politicians have forecast what they say is the human cost if those changes are made. There has been no evidence presented to support these statements.

Bridges: “If the bail-sentencing-parole laws are softened up, there will be many more victims of crime that (Little) and Jacinda Ardern will be responsible for.”

Bennett: “They’re talking about relaxing the laws which would be to early release offenders. They are going to release criminals into the community and put victims and other potential victims at risk”.

Bridges: “If Andrew Little gets his head on bail, sentencing and parole changes, the consequences will be dire. I have no doubt if Andrew Little gets his head there will be an uproar in New Zealand over time as the victims of crime become more and more apparent.”

Bennett: “What they are looking at doing is reducing those rules and they’ve said many a time that is their intention, and if they do it then that increases the risk because there are more people out.”

Over the past 20 years, both Labour and National have responded to a public “tough on crime” appetite by ramping up bail, parole and sentencing laws.

It’s going to be very difficult for Little to get the balance right if he makes changes to the law. He will be hit with any failures, whether justified or not.

And he also faces a challenge getting coalition support, with NZ First already pulling the 3 strikes repeal rug from under him.

With Bridges’ past experience as a lawyer and  also prosecutor it would have been good to see him working positively with Little to find better ways of dealing with crime and punishment without increasing risks, but he seems to have chosen a partisan path instead. That’s a real shame.

There’s a lot at stake, but as usual on law and order issues it looks like politics and populism will as difficult to beat as crime and prison numbers.

Davis claims that prisoner numbers have reduced by 600

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has claimed that prisoner numbers have reduced by 600 in an interview yesterday on Newshub Nation. If this is true that would be a remarkable turnaround on recent forecasts.

Recently published projections, which show a prison population of 10,308 for 2017.

RNZ (2 July 2018): Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis changes inmate forecast comments

Mr Davis said since January, growth in the prison population was tracking below the forecast for the first time “in a very long time”. There were now 10,500 people in prison, a fall of 300 since March.

Mr Davis has previously said the government aimed to reduce the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years, to around 7000.

That suggests that prisoner numbers peaked at 10,800 in March, and had decreased by 300 by July.

On Wednesday (22 August) RadioLive reports in ‘This is personal for me’: Kelvin Davis on Maori prison stats

There are 10,235 prisoners in our jails, down from 10,800 in March.

That’s 565 down on the Match peak.

Davis on the Nation yesterday:

The facts are that the prison forecast had us at about 11,500 by the end of the year. We’re now at 10,200. Since March, the prison population has reduced from 10,800. So, there’s work that we’re doing just to streamline processes within the system that are actually having a positive effect on the prison population.

Well, we’ve reduced the prison population by 600 in six months…

Well, what I’m saying is that Corrections is doing a fantastic job. It has done a fantastic job already. We’ve only been in government less than a year, and we’ve managed to defy the projections, and we’re a thousand below where they— where we’re told that they would be.

Corrections have put on their thinking caps. We’ve already got the High Impact Innovation Programme that is having a significant benefit. It’s reducing the prison numbers…

We’re actually defying the odds. We’re defying the forecast. We’re defying the projections, and the prison population is actually reducing, and we’re doing it safely.

If accurate, this is a remarkable turnaround.

Andrew Little on Q&A last weekend (19 August 2018):

We’ve had this massive increase of the number of people in our prisons, we’ve got more people serving longer prison sentences, our average prison sentence has increased by something like twenty percent over the last few years.

Sixty percent of those in prison will reoffend within two years of release…

Nearly 40% of those in prison have a mental health problem like depression or anxiety.
Nearly 50% have an addiction problem.

Little’s focus is on helping and treating people while in prison so they are less likely to offend after they are released. That has been asked for for years.

We’ve been putting more and more people into prison and for longer…

It’s not right that we’ve had this thirty percent increase in our prison population in just the last five years, that’s not right, that tells you there’s something wrong. It’s not right that we’ve doubled those remanded in custody just in the last five years.

He means that’s not good, not that it isn’t correct.

But it seems odd that in an interview focussing on dire imprisonment statistics and the need for better treatment of problems and better rehabilitation, there was no mention of prisoner numbers being reduced.

So what about Davis’ claim? From the Department of Corrections prisoner population as at 31 March 2018 (the latest published information):

  • Remand prisoners 3,316
  • Sentenced prisoners 7,329
  • TOTAL PRISONERS 10,645

That’s less than the 10,800 that Davis claimed, and he has given variations on the latest numbers so the exact numbers are unclear.

However if they have reduced over the last five months that is good progress. It would be good to have this clarified.

How is this being achieved? Davis referred to the oddly named High Impact Innovation Programme. From Corrections ‘Our Priorities’:

  • The High Impact Innovation Programme will enhance opportunities for offenders to access electronic bail and home detention options.

Home Detention is a sentence so that is decided by courts (judges). Have they been encouraged to choose Home Detention more? Electronic Bail also sounds like a court decision.

The above numbers show that there are a huge number remand prisoners (as at 31 March), and according to Little that has doubled in the last five years, so is an obvious target in trying to reduce prisoner numbers. Little also said that most imprisoned on remand don’t get prison sentences.

A risk is that, probably inevitably, a person on bail will commit a high profile crime and that will have (some of) the public and some lobby groups and some politicians baying for more imprisonment.

So there are tricky challenges for Little.

As for the reduced prisoner numbers claimed by Davis, which range from 600 (a number he quoted) to 410 (another number he quoted plus an official Corrections number.

However any reduction is good, especially given the forecast increases – until someone on bail or on early release probation does something horrific. It is a difficult balancing act – the need to balance risks.

Bridges, Mitchell negative as justice summit progresses

The justice system summit currently under way in Porirua is trying to find ways of doing justice better – something that could certainly do with improvement.

It’s disappointing to see how negative the national opposition is: Simon Bridges dismisses Government justice summit as a ‘talk fest’ – says it will lead to a ‘softening’ of laws

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Criminal Justice Summit due to begin today is simply a ‘talk fest’ that will likely lead to a “softening” of bail laws.

Justice Minister Andrew Little yesterday told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that New Zealand’s prison system is not successfully reintegrating people into society.

“Sixty per cent of those in prison will re-offend within two years of being released,” Mr Little said.

“We’ve had thirty years of the auction of more penalties, more crime, more people in prison but it’s not working, it’s not making us safe.

Mr Bridges, speaking this morning on TVNZ 1’s Breakfast programme, said it sounded like “Andrew Little knows what he wants to achieve out of it” and dismissed it as a “talk fest”.

“He doesn’t want to build more prison beds so he has to cut the prison population by a third,” Mr Bridges said.

“If I thought they were grappling with really hard issues to reduce actual offending, rather than just those prison numbers, and it was rehabilitation, reintegration, I’d go along with it.

“But it seems to me it’s pretty clear what’s going to come out – and that’s softening up the bail laws, the sentencing laws and the parole laws.

National’s justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell has also been critical of the summit.  It would be good to have seen cross party support for doing something about a prison system described by Bill English last year as a “moral and fiscal failure”.

But the summit can work without National.

Newsroom:  Much talk, some action at justice summit’s first day

Ministers laid out the cracks in the criminal justice system on the first day of the Government’s criminal justice summit. Claims that the event would be just another “talkfest” seemed to be initially borne out, but a better balance developed as the day wore on, as Sam Sachdeva reports.

About 700 people attended the first day of the Government’s criminal justice summit, the starting point for what could be years of reforms if ministers have their way.

Justice Minister Andrew Little…

…contrasted the image of New Zealand as a “small, peaceful country with no obvious enemies on our border” against the country’s darker side: record homelessness; grinding poverty; strained mental health and addiction services; and a skyrocketing prison population.

Little said there were fundamental questions about the justice system that needed answering: how to tackle high levels of domestic violence and reduce over-representation of Māori in prison; and how to ensure prisoners get the support they need to reduce their risk of reoffending.

“Many years of public debate and public discussion about criminal justice [have] focused on one thing: how are we going to lock them up and get them out of our way…

“We haven’t much talked in the last 30 years about what we do to change people, at least those who can be changed because they have understandable, identifiable problems and challenges in their lives which with a bit of effort we can turn around.”

Little made a point of singling out the National MPs in attendance despite their publicly expressed concerns about possible reforms, in a sign of the political battle the Government knows it has on its hands.

“If one of the things that we get from the conversation that we get to trigger in these two days is understanding, an agreed understanding about the gaps in national policy, about the way forward, some things we can do better, some things we can do differently, then that will help the debate,” he said.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis…

…asked for a show of hands from those who thought the justice system was perfect – predictably, none were raised – before asking the crowd to “ask hard questions” of the Government and provide ideas for change.

“None of us are precious about what’s going on, and we know things have to change, so we have to have the courage to challenge the status quo.”

Maori imprisonment rates are a significant part of the problem, so Davis needs to step up on this. It will require a lot of consultation with Maori communities.

Police Minister Stuart Nash…

…who on Monday announced the details of where the 1800 extra police funded by the Government would go, said that boost would not mean an equivalent rise in prison numbers as police took new approaches to crime.

“I do believe when I talk to people who are not politically aligned or socially aware, they are uncomfortable with the level of incarceration, they are uncomfortable with the fact that Corrections’ operating budget has increased by a billion dollars a year over the last 12 years, and they’re open and receptive to an alternative vision.”

Parliamentary undersecretary Jan Logie…

…a Green MP who is working under Little on domestic and sexual violence issues – work he described as “profoundly important” – then spoke about the flow-on impact of sexual and family violence on people who then went on to offend themselves, and the need to provide better support services.

Some frustration bubbled over as Logie finished her speech, with an interjector standing up and urging the organisers to “let Māori speak for us”.

“We don’t need to hear some organised speech, a pre-written speech to talk about us,” Anzac Wallace said.

National’s justice spokesman Mark Mitchell…

…seized on the “boilover” as a sign of the Government’s failure to properly plan the summit.

“They feel that there’s been too much talk, too many working groups, no action, and that’s basically what we’ve been saying…this has basically been like a big counselling session, and although these voices are important, this isn’t the right format.”

National had said it would support reforms which made a difference, Mitchell said, but did not support where the Government appeared to be heading.

“At the moment, and this was part of our discussion, fundamentally we’re going down two different tracks: we believe that at the heart of any good criminal justice system, public safety and victims should be at the heart of that.”

Talk and public engagement are important parts of political processes, so long as they lead to significant changes and to improvements.

The proof will be quite a bit further down the track – there are no quick or easy fixes.

Q+A: Justice Minister “what we are doing isn’t working”

Justice Minister Andrew Little was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Andrew Little: after 30 years of tough on crime policy, the reoffending rate has stayed the same, “it’s not making us safe”

“We have to change the public debate on what we do with criminals”.

“If we are doing it right there will be more people leaving prison who have been helped and don’t reoffend.”

“It is not right that we’ve had a 30% increase in our prison population in the last 5 years.”

“No we haven’t got agreement from NZ First to get rid of 3 strikes law.”

Andrew Little: can’t rule out the possibility of systemic racism in the justice system

“Just the humanity of it means we have to do something different”.

“What we are doing right now isn’t working”.

I doubt anyone will argue that New Zealand’s incarceration rate is a problem, and that deterrents and reoffending rates and rehabilitation need to be seriously reviewed.

What is missing from the interview highlights (from @NZQandA) are solutions. That’s the tricky bit.

A review of the judicial system is under way. Hopefully that will come up with some good suggestions.

One problem is that a substantial up front investment will probably be required.

The growing number of prisoners has to be dealt with, and that is costly.

But much more resources are required for prevention and rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners after they are released. If these are done much better it should lead to lowering imprisonment rates, eventually.

Many prisoners are the result of long term problems, often intergenerational. Poor upbringings, lack of education and low skills making well paid employment difficult to get all contribute to resorting to crime.

Drug laws have worked poorly and contribute to a lot of crime.

Violence is a huge problem, it is a deeply entrenched issue in New Zealand society. It will be very challenging confronting and addressing this successfully, but it is an investment in effort and money that benefit us all if it works for the better.

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Bridges: Peter Ellis conviction “fundamentally was a miscue”, but too bad

Peter Ellis was found guilty of 16 sexual offences in 1993, related to his time working at the Christchurch Civic Creche. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

There were absurd allegations, and there were serious question raised about the investigation and especially about how children were interviewed, and how bizarre claims were promoted by the prosecution.

If there was ever a case that needed reassessing I think the Ellis case must be at the top of the list.

National leader Simon Bridges has now said – speaking as a lawyer – that the conviction “fundamentally was a miscue”, but disappointingly then dropped the ball and kicked it back under the carpet.

Newsroom: Bridges backs Peter Ellis over wrongful conviction claim

Peter Ellis, the former childcare worker who claims he was wrongfully convicted of child sex abuse, has a new advocate – National leader Simon Bridges.

Speaking at a community event in Auckland on Friday morning, Bridges was asked about his views on Ellis’ case and the broader issue of wrongful convictions.

“I say this as Simon Bridges, lawyer, not as Simon Bridges, politician: when I look at all of the convictions you see in New Zealand, people have all of these views…there’s only one that I would say fundamentally was a miscue, and that’s the Peter Ellis one.”

Bridges told Newsroom after the event he believed Ellis had been subject to a miscarriage of justice.

“My view is if you look at it out of all the other ones, people have their different views but you look at the evidence [for other wrongful conviction claims], there’s definitely a prosecution case there.

“The difference with the Peter Ellis one was there were things that went awry in the prosecution and the investigation, and there was something of a witch hunt about that one.”

I think that just about everyone accepts this. Good on Bridges for saying it out loud.

However, Bridges stopped short of calling for an inquiry or any other action, saying he was unsure whether “all these years on there are necessarily things to be done”.

That’s an extremely disappointing response. It is important that justice is seen to be done, and that means rectifying injustice.

In 2015, the National government knocked back a request for a commission of inquiry into the case, with then-Justice Minister Amy Adams saying it was not the right mechanism to determine his guilt or innocence.

That was even more disappointing. If a commission of inquiry isn’t ‘the right mechanism’ why the hell hasn’t any Government since the conviction ensured the right mechanism was used to right what looks like a disgraceful injustice?

One of the biggest flaws in our justice system is the great difficulty it has with dealing with bad decisions and undoing harm done to innocent people.

Some eventually get some redress, like Arthur Allan Thomas and Teina Pora – but they took far too long.

Despite his views on Ellis, Bridges was lukewarm about Justice Minister Andrew Little’s work on a Criminal Cases Review Commission to look at apparent miscarriages of justice, telling the crowd there were “many safety valves in the system”.

Those ‘safety valves’ sometimes fail badly, as they seem to have in the Ellis case.

If Little succeeds in setting up a Criminal Cases Review Commission that may or may not help Ellis have his case reviewed, but that is likely to be years away at best.

It is good to hear Bridges prepared to openly criticise the Ellis conviction, but he has not gone far enough.

This should be a no-brainer for showing real leadership, especially with his background as a lawyer and prosecutor. Unfortunately Bridges has broomed this under the carpet.

Pike River re-entry costs escalate

A ‘concept plan’ for re-entry into the Pike River mine to recover miners’ bodies has been presented to their families by the Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little (actually three alternative options), but with that is a bigger than previously estimated cost.

RNZ: Pike River re-entry: ‘Concept plan’ presented to families

A plan for re-entering the drift of the Pike River Mine has been presented to victims’ familes in Greymouth this morning.

The plan is being described as a “concept plan” with more detailed planning to follow if it is approved.

Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little, and Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn have been talking to the relatives of the 29 men killed in the mine in 2010.

Mr Little said the families were now discussing the plan and he hoped to give it the go-ahead on Monday.

However, he said he expected they would approve the concept plan.

“My sense is the families are really happy with the level of work that has been done, the quality of ther work. They seem pretty satisfied with it … They’re keen for the project to continue to make progress, so that we re-enter the drift and recover as much as we can.”

RNZ:  Pike River Mine re-entry narrowed to three options

The planned re-entry to the Pike River mine has been narrowed to three options.

Mining specialists, Pike River Recovery Agency staff and family members of the 29 men killed in the 2010 blast were on the West Coast for a second workshop aimed at coming up with a plan for manned re-entry of the mine drift.

A panel of technical experts will now shift the focus to three scenarios which are now being developed further.

The scenarios include:

  • building a new two by two-metre tunnel around 200m long;
  • drilling a large diameter borehole;
  • re-entering the main drift as it is with no second means of egress (exit).

The aim is to try and find out what happened in order to prevent any further tragedies, to give the families closure and where possible, retrieve any remains found in the drift, the agency said.

Dinghy Pattinson, the recovery agency’s chief operating officer, said he was confident they would get back in.

“Any mining activity has dangers or risks involved, so it’s a matter of just identifying those risks throughout the whole process and having your controls in place,” Mr Pattinson said.

“If there was any real danger then that would be a show-stopper, so at this stage all the risks identified – I feel confident we can manage them.”

Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn said they had made bigger steps during this workshop.

“We still anticipate entering the mine before the end of the year, and we still think that’s achievable. This workshop is only step number two in a number yet to take,” Mr Gawn said.

He said among the steps was a detailed risk analysis of the preferred options.

It sounds like they are still far from certain how to get back into the mine, how risky it would be – and how much it would cost, even they they don’t yet know how they will do it.

Stuff: Pike River re-entry could cost $12m more than $23m budget, minister says

The plan to re-enter the Pike River mine could cost up to $12 milllion more than the $23 million budget, Stuff understands.

The Government had budgeted $7.6 million a year for three years, totalling up to $23m, for the Pike River Recovery Agency and re-entry to the mine.

When asked if he had told Cabinet the agency would need up to $12m more, Little said one of the options could cost up to that amount, but others would be less than that.

“We won’t know exactly what the figures are until more detailed work has been done.

While there remains a lot of doubt about how a re-entry would be achieved the expected cost seems to keep escalating.

I understand that some families really want the bodies of some miners recovered (some families don’t see the need).

What if the option chosen is the more expensive one – $35 million – and they get into the mine and they can’t find or can’t recover all of the bodies? What if bodies unrecovered are from families that most want them recovered? What then? Keep spending until they find and recover them all?

What if they can’t find out the cause of the explosions?