More support proposed for released prisoners

Currently prisoners are released from prison with $350, only if they have photo ID. Immediate job prospects for many of them will be poor. It must be difficult to get set up and survive. It must be easy for them to quickly go back to old acquaintances and old habits, with a high chance of reoffending.

60% of prisoners are re-convicted within two years of release – but they will start re-offending sooner, possibly much sooner. And this only measures those who get caught.

NZ Herald: Released prisoners set up to fail due to poor support – justice advisory group

The Government is being urged to increase the amount of money it gives prisoners when they are released – if it wants them to stay out of jail.

The head of an advisory group on justice reforms said a payment of just $350 was setting prisoners up to fail, and many of them couldn’t even access it.

Chester Borrows, a former National Party Minister and chair of the Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group, wants the payment to double.

He said poor support was a major factor contributing to a high rate of reoffending.

Doubling it to $700 may not make much difference. You can’t survive for long on that.

The group will make recommendations to the Government to improve the criminal justice system – described by Justice Minister Andrew Little as “broken” – in an interim report in March, and a final report in August.

Little told the Herald he looked forward to the reports, but agreed that released prisoners needed more support.

Released prisoners can only get the $350, called the Steps to Freedom grant, if they have photo ID to set up a bank account. Many ex-prisoners did not have this, Borrows said.

“That’s supposed to give them accommodation and keep them fed for two weeks until their first benefit or pay packet”.

“If you’ve got to rent a room, you’ve got to pay a bond and usually a couple of week’s rent in advance – how are you going to do that? And you’re coming out with nothing in your cupboards. How much are two weeks’ groceries?

“And if they keep you in Christchurch because there’s no room in the Auckland Prison, and then release you in Christchurch and don’t pay for you to get home, how does that person get back to their family support? You would have to say that these people are set up to fail.”

I suspect that some people will not support ‘hand outs’ for crims, but the alternative, returning to a life of crime and ending up in prison again, will be a lot more expensive, and not just through the cost of incarceration but also the cost of crime to yhe public.


High Court: Dotcom and co-accused eligible for extradition

The High Court has just released a decision saying that Kim Dotcom cannot be extradited for copyright infringement, but there are grounds for extradition on “general criminal law fraud provisions”.

NZ Herald: Kim Dotcom and co-accused eligible for extradition to US, says High Court

In the High Court finding released today, Justice Murray Gilbert upheld a decision by the District Court that there were grounds for the quartet to be extradited,

But the judge has also supported an argument made by Dotcom’s legal team that he and his former Megaupload colleagues cannot be extradited on copyright infringement grounds.

He said that was because “online communication of copyright protected works to the public is not a criminal offence in New Zealand”.

He said it meant the accused could not be extradited to the US on copyright grounds.

Instead, Justice Gilbert said there were “general criminal law fraud provisions” which covered the actions of the accused and they could be extradited on that basis.

He said he agreed with District Court judge Nevin Dawson that there was enough information to make the decision based on accepting a “record of the case” put forward by the US which detailed the evidence it claimed to hold against the Megaupload accused.

Dotcom’s lawyer is claiming a victory.

Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield claimed victory from the ruling, saying the case was no longer the “largest criminal copyright case”.

“As we have said all along, there is no such offence under our Copyright Act. We were right.”

That may be so, but if Dotcom can be still be extradited that is hardly a victory.

And it probably won’t be the last attempt to prevent extradition. I presume there are appeal steps yet to come.

NZ Herald has an interview with Dotcom on this: Kim Dotcom legal saga: Extradition to US over Megaupload still on cards but he claims court ruling is a ‘major victory’

Should climate denial be a crime?

Dr Jarrod Gilbert provocatively at NZ Herald: Why climate denial should be a criminal offence:

There is no greater crime being perpetuated on future generations than that committed by those who deny climate change. The scientific consensus is so overwhelming that to argue against it is to perpetuate a dangerous fraud. Denial has become a yardstick by which intelligence can be tested.

The term climate sceptic is now interchangeable with the term mindless fool.

I think this is over the top, perhaps deliberately.

Scepticism with any science, especially one as complex as climate science, is healthy. More than that, scepticism is essential in science.

Likening climate science scepticism to denial and mindlessness is foolish.

Since the 1960s, it has been known that heat-trapping gasses were increasing in the earth’s atmosphere, but no one knew to what effect. In 1979, a study found “no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible”. Since then scientists have been seeking to prove it, and the results are in.

Scientists have been researching climate in many ways and the results keep coming in. While most results point strongly towards human influenced climate change things are far from conclusive or final.

As this recent article illustrates: Antarctic is cooling, but climate skeptics aren’t going to be happy.

Back to Gilbert:

One way in which everyday crime can be discouraged is to ensure that “capable guardians” are around to deter criminal activity. When it comes to climate change, the capable guardians are educated members of the public who counteract the deniers.

There may be differing opinions on what policies to pursue, but those who deny that climate change exists ought be shouted down like the charlatans that they are. Or better yet, looked upon with pitiful contempt and completely ignored.

There is no room to sit on the fence and say, “I don’t know if it’s true”. Ignorance of the law excuses no one – and so it is with the laws of science.

It’s sad to see Gilbert resorting to this line of attack. It’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind about climate change – it’s more likely to entrench views because it is so obviously over the top.

There are serious issues facing New Zealand and the world regarding climate change. We have to consider possible effects of continued warming and ongoing scientific research is essential to monitor and to learn.

Suggesting scepticism is criminal and denigrating differing views is unhelpful and unscientific.

“Even prisoners have rights”

Detainees as well as prisoners have legal and moral rights. But New Zealand MPs seem to have made the detainee/Christmas Island issue all about themselves and their frustrations with how Parliament is being run by the Speaker.

It’s important that people deported from Australia back to New Zealand are given a fair go.

But New Zealanders also have a right to expect reasonable protection against ex criminals returning from Australia.

It’s also important that if any of those people present a risk New Zealanders then appropriate measures must be taken on their return. For example just as a pedophile released from prison in New Zealand may need to be restricted and monitored, so shoukld a pedophile released from prison in Australia and deported back to New Zealand.

TVNZ Australian correspondent Ruth Wynn Williams alludes to prisoner and ex-prisoner rights in Kiwi detainees deserve humanity, dignity and respect.

It’s time to turn back the clock because somewhere, most likely in the halls of New Zealand’s Parliament, the issue of what is happening to Kiwis being deported from Australia seems to be getting lost.

Around 200 New Zealanders are being held in immigration detention centres after the law change that saw their visas cancelled.

It’s no secret that most of the New Zealand citizens being detained in Australia have convictions.

Some details of those convictions have been released.

They’ve served sentences for their crimes; in fact, some of the ‘hardened criminals’ Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton claims are being held on high-security Christmas Island were so dangerous they were ordered to serve those sentences in their very own homes.

I’m not sure if Wynn Williamns is being sarcastic there.

I’ve spoken to detainees in centres all over Australia, they all acknowledge they have made mistakes. There is no excuse for breaking the law but let’s make one thing very clear, even prisoners have rights.

Whether our politicians support criminal behaviour or not, if what we are hearing from Christmas Island is true we should all be concerned.

The problem is that we don’t know if we are hearing full and accurate stories.

Some stories suggest some of the detainees may be being dealt with harshly.

Some stories suggest that some of the detainees may be dangerous trouble makers. There have been reports of some detainees being fearful for their safety due to the actions of and threats from other detainees, some of whome are New Zealand citizens.

Access to adequate legal support is difficult and it’s claimed Border Force officials provide little information.

There was scarce warning before the men were shifted to the remote island, often by heavily armed guards in the middle of the night, and there is no real timeline for how long they will stay.

On the island far away from their families, many detainees have developed mental health issues and are said to be suicidal.

We now know the centre can get violent; an investigation is underway into the latest refugee death.

We don’t know what was behind that death, and what was really behind the riot that followed it.

All the men want to get out and some have even followed John Key’s heartfelt advice and agreed to travel to New Zealand, but there is a delay in processing so they’ll remain stuck on Christmas Island for another few weeks or even months.

In the rush to cancel so many visas, Australia itself hasn’t even bothered to keep up.

It appears that Australia has created a major logistiocal problem for itself and has struggled to deal with it adequately.

Referring to those being held only as ‘criminals’ is an emotive tactic from Australia’s immigration minister and one that has helped convince many Australians these ‘troublesome’ Kiwis should not be helped, but our own Prime Minister doing the same has created an ugly and damaging distraction.

So, let’s go back to where this all started and have a conversation about human rights.

The humanity, dignity and respect that everybody, New Zealanders or not, should reasonably expect.

To an extent I agree.

But we also should be cautious and careful about the potential dangers of ex-criminals who are deported back to New Zealand.

If just one of those ex-criminals deported to New Zealand was to commit a serious crime, especially if it was of a violent or sexual nature, then it’s probable that the same MPs blasting the Government for not doing everything it can for the detainees who are New Zealand citizens would be blasting the Government for not protecting New Zealanders from returning ex-criminals.

Today electioneering is a criminal offence

Today is the official by-election day in Northland. The campaigning is over – it is illegal to campaign today.

7.2  Campaigning on election day is a criminal offence

Before election day you must remove or cover all your election advertising that can be seen from a public place. Returning Officers are authorised to remove or cover advertising and charge the costs to the people responsible.

Signs on vehicles, including bumper stickers, must be covered or removed.  T-shirts and flags featuring party or candidate names, emblems, slogans or logos cannot be displayed on election day.  For this reason, the distribution of candidate or party bumper stickers, t-shirts and flags is not recommended.  Once distributed, you cannot be sure that they will not continue to be displayed on election day.  You could expose your supporters to the risk of inadvertently committing an offence.

This is traditional and it’s the law, but it’s a bit of a farce now that advance voting is promoted and it’s popular..

5.19      Advance voting

Advance voting for those who are unable to get to a voting place on election day will be available from 3 September 2014  (17 days before election day) up to the day before election day (Friday 19 September 2014).

The prohibitions applying to electioneering on election day do not apply during the advance voting period.

So for seventeen days candidates, parties and individuals are allowed to do and say what they like to try and influence voters, but on the final day it is forbidden.

Up until Thursday there had been 11018 advance votes excluding special votes – see NORTHLAND ADVANCE VOTING STATISTICS.

In last year’s general election 35,707 people voted for parties in the Northland electorate, so with yesterdays tally that means a third of that number will have advance voted (compared to 9478 in 2014).

By-elections often have lower turnouts – only 13,726 votes were counted in the Christchurch by-election in 2013 – so the proportion of advance votes could be higher as there could be close to that number of advance votes in Northland.

So at least a third and feasibly a half or more of the total votes will have been made in advance, while electioneering was very active.

But today’s voters are protected from being influenced. Except that parties can target likely supporters and drive them to polling booths – without suggesting who they should vote for of course.

Advance voting has changed substantially in recent years, but our law regarding electioneering now seems to be out of date.