Report calls for 'urgent' reform of New Zealand's justice system

A Government advisory group says New Zealand's justice system is failing.

A study carried out by Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group (Te Uepū)  found the vast majority of those who come in contact with the justice system leave with a sense of being let down, and "the need for transformative change is urgent".

"The overwhelming impression we got from people who have experienced the criminal justice system is one of grief," Te Uepū Chairman Chester Burrows said in a statement.

"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."

Te Uepū spoke with and received submissions from thousands of New Zealanders over the past six months and found several major themes were constant in conversation:

  • Too many people who have been harmed by crime feel unheard, misunderstood and re-victimised
  • The number of Māori in the system is a crisis
  • Violence is an enormous problem, particularly for families and children
  • Formal justice processes fail us too often
  • The system is too focused on punishment and neglects prevention, rehabilitation, reconciliation and repair of the harm done by crime
  • Individuals, families and whānau feel unsupported and disempowered by the system, and the ability of iwi, hapū, communities, NGOs and others to provide support is constrained by the siloed nature of government structures and funding arrangements
  • People experiencing mental distress lack the support they need.

Burrows said the report clearly illustrated why the current system isn't working and called for action on its treatment of Māori in particular.

"We heard that the current system simply isn't delivering effective justice, and a 60 percent reoffending rate within two years of a person leaving prison is some evidence of its ineffectiveness.

"Māori are vastly disproportionately represented in all the negative stats across society...unfortunately, as a society, we just seem to have accepted that and done stuff-all about it," Burrows told Newshub.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the report shows there is also a need to give more attention to victims of crime and looks forward to Te Uepū's further work in suggesting specific reforms.

"Many victims... are made to feel as if they are just a bit-part of the whole system even though the system is meant to be dispnsing justice for them," Little told Newshub.

"Te Uepū is now developing reform options for the Government that it believes will contribute to a safer and more effective justice system," Little also said in a statement.