Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced a Criminal Justice Summit from August 20 to 22 as a first step to fixing what he calls a broken criminal justice system.
“New Zealand needs less offending, less re-offending, and fewer victims of crime. We can’t continue to have one of the highest re-offending rates in the OECD,” Mr Little said.
It is likely that the summit will have the attendance of victims, victims' advocates, front-line workers, and experts in criminal justice.
The summit will be launched by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern from Parliament’s Banquet Hall on August 20, with its remainder held at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua.
Mr Little had also announced a specialist advisory group – adding to an already burgeoning list of expert groups that this government had announced so far – to assist in shaping an overhaul of the criminal justice system.
While the fact that our criminal justice system is not working as it should be is widely agreed, views about how it should be fixed are starkly divided.
Experts and commentators on criminal justice system blame the politics of law and order for the apparent inability in fixing of the criminal justice system.
“This Government believes New Zealand should be the best place in the world to live and raise a family.
“Our justice system must play its part in that. We are determined to confront the challenges with a hope and belief that we can and should do better for whanau and communities today, and for future generations,” Mr Little said.
National Party Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell has denounced the move saying, “It is apparent that the Government has already pre-determined the outcome of the Criminal Justice Summit, and that’s to loosen up our bail, parole and sentencing laws.”
Former Minister and National Party MP Chester Borrows will chair the working group and be working alongside independent victims' advocate Ruth Money, and Julia Whaipooti, Dr Warren Young, Professor Tony Ward, Professor Tracey McIntosh, Dr Carwyn Jones and Dr Jarrod Gilbert.
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 Mr 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,” Mr Little said.
The Ministry of Justice has launched an interactive website and is encouraging everyone and anyone keen to have their say online and register interest at www.safeandeffectivejustice.govt.nz to attend the Criminal Justice Summit.
Crime Prevention Group calls for “robust solutions.”
Crime Prevention Group – a community advocacy group, formed last year to rally public support against the rise in the number of aggravated robbery, assault and incidences of crime, especially on the members of ethnic communities – has welcomed the move, calling upon Mr Borrows to come up with some robust solutions.
“We expect Mr Borrows and the members in the newly set up Criminal Justice Reform Advisory Group to come up with robust solutions that are relevant and effectively deals with an out of order law and order situation prevailing in New Zealand,” Sunny Kaushal, President and founder, Crime Prevention Group said.
Earlier last year, Mr Kaushal had led the 15-member executive committee of the Crime Prevention Group to parliament to meet with Group of Ministers to present a memorandum on the state of rising crime in New Zealand.
The Group had then met with Minister for Justice Andrew Little, Minister for Police and Small Businesses Stuart Nash, Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Michael Wood.
“We had presented an eight-point memorandum carrying recommendations on the crucial matter.
“I hope Mr Borrows gets a copy of the same and seriously considers recommendations in the memorandum,” Mr Kaushal said.