“Remand or Bust?” – the prison problem

From a comment by Gezza:

A single legal change has caused massive growth in the prison muster.

Growth in New Zealand’s prison population accelerated from around 8500 in 2014 to around 10,500 in 2016

The recent spike can be traced back to changes to bail laws in 2013. Since then, people charged with violent, sex or drug crimes have to prove they pose no danger to the community to get bail. If they can’t, they stay behind bars.

The changes followed public shock over the 2011 killing of 18-year-old Christie Marceau. Her killer Akshay Anand Chand was on bail when he killed her. Chand was found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

When the bail law was changed, Labour said it was “a fairly soft measure” which would require a further 50 prison beds.

In fact, the number of prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing has almost doubled. And our prisons are bursting at the seams. It leaves Justice Minister Andrew Little with a tough decision. Roll back popular changes to the bail laws or build another expensive prison

“There’s no question our prison system is in chaos, and in crisis, at the moment” says Justice Minister Andrew Little, He says the Government has got to fix it up – and quickly. According to Mr Little Cabinet right now is looking at a number of ideas from both the Minister of Corrections, Kelvin Davis and the Minister of Police, Stuart Nash and he’s going to put some up as Minister of Justice.”


Sepuloni’s statement and Parliamentary questions

Carmel Sepuloni made a statement today:

Comment from Carmel Sepuloni
Thursday, 26 February 2015, 10:54 am
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party

The first I knew of my mother’s charges was when I was called by a reporter yesterday.

I spoke to Andrew and we agreed there is a conflict of interest at the present time which means I will temporarily stand aside from the Social Development portfolio. It’s the right thing to do.

I look forward to resuming my duties when the matter is resolved.

This is a difficult time for my family and I ask the media to please respect their privacy.

I will not be doing any media on this topic.

In the meantime Andrea Vance has been investigating written Parliamentary questions from Sepuloni in Carmel Sepuloni’s questions on benefit fraud.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni…recently asked the Government a series of questions about welfare cheats.

The party insists she did not know Beverley Anne Sepuloni was facing charges until yesterday.

Two days earlier, the Kelston MP lodged a series of written parliamentary questions with Social Development Minister Anne Tolley. They centred on benefit fraud.

One question asked for details on the process the Ministry of Social Development used for “establishing whether suspected benefit fraud relating to a client having a partner despite saying they live alone”.

Sepuloni’s mother faces 19 charges of claiming benefits and subsidies she was not entitled to and failing to tell Ministry of Social Development officials she was living with a partner.

The MP’s questions also related to money spent by the ministry on investigating suspected cases of benefit fraud, and how many clients were convicted.

She also asked: “How many [reports] were proved to be correct and how many were found to be incorrect?”

Sepuloni was also interested in information on the Benefit Review Committee – the internal panel set up to review decisions. She wanted to know details about how they were appointed and how much they cost.

That’s amongst many questions.

A spokesperson for Little said: “Carmel was doing her job as Social Development spokesperson by getting as much information as possible on matters of public interest. These questions show she was completely ignorant of her mother’s charges. Written Parliamentary Questions need to be specific and detailed in order to get the answers required.

“This month alone Carmel has filed 112 questions on a wide range of Social Development issues.”

But the subject matter of some of the questions is very coincidental if Sepuloni is telling the truth about not finding out about her mother’s charges until yesterday.

And it has been reported that Sepuloni has been on five days leave due to a sick child – but she was still asking written questions in that time, which seems a bit odd.

Sepuloni’s mother did not enter a plea in her court appearance:

The mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni appeared in court today on benefit fraud charges and was remanded to re-appear next week.

Beverley Anne Sepuloni is facing 19 charges of benefit fraud after being accused of claiming benefits and subsidies she was not entitled to, and failing to tell Ministry of Social Development officials she was living with a partner.

Michael Charles Rangi has been jointly charged with her and is facing four charges.

Both were remanded to re-appear in the New Plymouth District Court on March 5.

Neither entered a plea to the charges.

Mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni remanded to face fraud charges