Dave Letele says justice system needs 'overhaul', questions Nate Nauer's sentence

A community advocate has slammed New Zealand's justice system saying it's "broken" and needs an overhaul so offenders can be rehabilitated. 

Dave Letele is the founder of the Buttabean Motivation Program and sees first-hand how poverty and crime are affecting New Zealand. 

He had a stinging review of New Zealand's justice system after former Mai FM morning host Nate Nauer was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail for his part in laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money for the Comancheros gang. 

Over the past few years, Nauer had been doing a lot of community work and community advocates such as Letele have questioned if the prison sentence was fair, given his work to turn his life around.

Letele told AM on Thursday the Judge in the case was "narrowminded" given there were other options available to him and questioned how Nauer is meant to "get better". 

He believes Nauer is a "textbook" example and a "picture of someone" who has turned his life around and feels home detention would've been a better punishment. 

"I'm not condoning or making any excuses for what Nate has done. That's not what I'm questioning here. What I'm questioning is the sentence when there were other options that could have happened, which would have been way more productive," Letele told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"You can't keep sending our people to prison and expect them to come out better. What we've got to understand is prison is not rehab, Ryan, and they'll come out worse and go backwards, especially when there were other options for the judge."

This was an opportunity for the judge to use Nauer as an example of what people should do to turn their life around, Letele said. 

"This guy has been volunteering for three years in our food share and in the process helping thousands of people even through the floods. We fully refurbished 50 homes in March, he played a part in every single one of those homes," he said. 

David Letele.
David Letele. Photo credit: AM

New Zealand is currently going through a crime wave, which has seen violent and public brawls on the main streets of Auckland and Palmerston North. Data released by National in March showed retail crime had increased by 39 percent over the year prior. 

The impact of retail crime on small businesses is back in the headlines after a west Auckland post shop owner this week announced she is closing her store due to being repeatedly targeted by thieves. The store, which has been operating for 20 years, has been burgled seven times over the past five years. The shop owner admitted to AM on Tuesday she is living in fear and unable to sleep. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins even admitted business owners "have reason" to be "fearful" given the level of retail crime offending. 

This has led to questions about how New Zealand fixes the problem, with political parties ACT and National wanting punitive measures of more jail sentences and ankle bracelets while Labour and youth workers are calling for restorative justice to provide rehabilitation to offenders.  

Letele is one of those questioning the system and believes "no one wins" by the sentence handed down to Nauer. 

"We have to think about rehabilitation. We have to think about the children who have no choice. Nate's nine-year-old has no choice ... and it's just so sad on all levels and nobody wins out of the sentence," he said.  

"The community don't win, we've got to now pay $160,000, whatever it is, to keep them him in prison. We lose a worker at our food share and society and the system don't win. How we could've won is by using Nate as an example to these kids, it's running rife at the moment this youth crime."  

He had a stinging review of the justice system saying it's "broken" and time has come for it to be overhauled and reviewed. 

"The justice system is totally broken. It's not working and it needs a total overhaul. If we want our society to be better, we need to rehabilitate and punishment is part of it. But punishment is about making people behave better socially," Letele told AM. 

"Why would you send people to the most antisocial place on earth and expect them to come out better? We need to think more broadly about this if we want our society to be better and that's what I want."

Watch the full interview with David Letele in the video above.