Housing NZ, police accused of 'cooperating' to refuse to bail prisoners

Housing NZ, police accused of 'cooperating' to refuse to bail prisoners
Photo credit: Getty

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and the police have been accused of cooperating in order to refuse bail.

The allegation comes from a senior defence lawyer who requested anonymity. He told Newshub there is suspicion among defence counsel that police share information with HNZ, knowing the bail address is likely to be refused.

"I suspect it's just a convenient mechanism by which the police oppose bail because they provide information to a landlord - which is Housing New Zealand - and Housing New Zealand then seem to be very willing to withhold consent," the lawyer said.

It backs up a view held by Justice Minister Andrew Little that hundreds of people are being kept in prison because HNZ isn't letting them be bailed to live with family in social housing.

HNZ has denied it has a blanket ban on bailed offenders.

Justice Minister Andrew Little.
Justice Minister Andrew Little. Photo credit: Newshub.

"Housing New Zealand will house, and always has housed, people on remand or bail if they are existing tenants or a family member or a friend of an existing tenant and there is space in the home and it meets any requirements set out by the relevant agencies such as Justice or Corrections," HNZ chief operating officer Paul Commons said in a statement.

But there is a provision that would allow it to carry out the practice without having an express ban. Clause 22 of the tenancy agreements used by HNZ states that HNZ must give permission for additional tenants, and specifically mentions people who are bailed.

"Where you wish to have an additional person, who is not normally resident at the premises, join your household for a period of more than three months (including those who either are bailed or apply to serve a sentence of home detention at the premises), then you must obtain Housing New Zealand's written approval before that person moves in with you," it says.

Mr Little couldn't say how many he thought were affected by the alleged behaviour.

"It comes up in pretty much every discussion I have with the criminal bar, defence lawyers and prosecutors. It is many, many people."

There are government suggestions it could be around 200. A justice sector source told Newshub it's likely many more than that.

Some people can apply for court bail between being charged with a crime and court dates for a trial or sentencing. To be eligible for bail, people must be charged with an offence with a maximum penalty of less than three years imprisonment, unless the offence relates to assault on a child, assault by a male on female, breach of a protection order or it's listed in the Bail Act. A previous conviction punishable by imprisonment means a defendant is not bailable.

Newshub has requested further comment from HNZ specifically regarding the allegation it cooperates with police.

Newshub.

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