This government’s insistence on being the harbinger of a transformational change, in almost every human activity taking place in this country, has expectedly raised huge expectations among the experts, both domestic and global, apart from the commoners who carry out their day to day life in this country.
After the recently released “Wellbeing Budget,” which sought to unleash a transformative change, in our approaches to some of the glaring challenges that we are facing including mental health crisis and child poverty, some progress is being made in terms of heralding a transformative change in the criminal justice system of this country.
An interim report released recently by an Advisory Group created earlier by the Minister of Justice Andrew Little and tasked with the responsibility of speaking with New Zealanders and proposing changes to the current criminal justice system, if any, is clearly suggesting a transformative change.
The Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group - Te Uepu Hapai i te Ora – appointed by Justice Minister Andrew Little earlier last year had on Sunday, June 9, released its first interim report which shares their reflections on conversations and submissions received from New Zealanders about the criminal justice system.
According to the report, the overwhelming message from New Zealanders is that regardless of how they come into contact with the justice system it is failing them and their families, and there is a need for transformative and sustained change.
The Group has been for months engaged in talking to thousands of people nationwide about their experiences with the justice system.
Chair of the Advisory Group Chester Borrows said: “Our advisory group was set up by the Justice Minister to conduct an honest and constructive conversation with New Zealanders on how we can deliver safer and more effective justice.”
The Indian Weekender file photos: (Public Hui in New Lyn, Auckland, earlier this year)
“We listened to thousands of New Zealanders from all over the country at our public events, through our website and social media, and at events we attended. We heard from interested members of the public, as well as those who have been victimised, prosecuted for offending or who offer services to communities that have been affected.
“The overwhelming impression we got from people who have experienced the criminal justice system is one of grief. Far too many New Zealanders feel the system has not dealt with them fairly, compassionately or with respect - and in many cases has caused more harm,” Mr Borrows said.
Experiences of grief resonate with Ethnic migrant communities
Responding to a query by the Indian Weekender about the experience of engagement with the ethnic migrant communities, including the Kiwi-Indian community, with the Advisory Group Mr Borrows expressed satisfaction in engagement with members of ethnic communities.
“Some of the major concerns we heard from the ethnic migrant communities were of dairy shop owners and small business owners who were at the forefront of experiencing robberies and assaults at their workplace.
“Their experiences of dealing with the criminal justice system was very much in line with the majority view of other Kiwis, that of grief,” Mr Burrows said.
On being probed further, about the prevailing anxieties within a section of Kiwi-Indian community about current political narrative of reducing incarceration rates and keeping communities safe, Mr Burrows said, “We acknowledge that many of our ethnic communities have emigrated from countries with socially conservative justice system and tends to see harsher punishments as guarantee for safety, which several modern pieces of research disagree with.”
“However, there is absolutely no denial of the fact that everyone, including our ethnic migrant communities, needs to feel safer and have a better experience of dealing with the criminal justice system,” Mr Burrows said.
He also assured that the Advisory Group would be including recommendations to the Minister for providing more support and respect to ethnic migrant communities for engaging with the criminal justice system.
The Advisory Group will now put together a final report and deliver it to the Government in August.