Two major resignations from group tasked with justice system overhaul

There have been two major resignations from the group tasked with overhauling the justice system.

Newshub has been told about extreme frustration within the project and the group's chair Chester Borrows admits things could have been handled better.

A team was assembled in July 2018 to fix the "American-style broken justice system here in New Zealand,'' as` Justice Minister Andrew Little described.

But after nearly a year of hard work, two of the group's justice heavy-hitters quit just months before the final report was due to be released.

"It's not uncommon for people to say, 'Look, I've done all I can for now because I've got a hell of a lot of other stuff on'," Borrows told Newshub.

Gang and crime expert Jarrod Gilbert and police complaints authority general manager Warren Young both resigned within days of each other.

Both Gilbert and Young were approached for comment. 

"They didn't think they could commit to the sorts of recommendations the group is likely to make," Little said. 

But Newshub understands there was extreme frustration within the group and its support staff, and that support staff also resigned.

One person told Newshub it was "so f***ing frustrating". 

Little responded: "I haven't heard that description before, except I know they worked pretty hard and some found it tiring and exhausting."

The group embarked on a massive roadshow across the country: 220 hui, speaking to hundreds of people, including offenders and victims.

Newshub has been told that among the problems within the group, the Ministry of Justice mishandled and even lost notes.

"We haven't got all the stuff we needed or wanted and we've had to revert to our own notes. But that's the nature of a collegial enterprise" Borrows said.

The final report, which will shape the Government's justice reforms, is due to be with the minister this month.

National leader Simon Bridges was critical of the Justice Advisory Group.

"The adults, the people who knew what they were doing, have left. The Government thought it could get the working groups to do its work, but even they're not working."

Borrows said he couldn't have prevented the resignations. 

The Ministry of Justice says the group's work cost taxpayers about $620,000. If it achieves meaningful change in justice, it was money well-spent.

But Newshub understands some who worked on the report felt it lacked enough detail for meaningful change.