He Waka Roimata report a call to action, Law Society says

by Sol Dolor12 Jun 2019

The recently released He Waka Roimata report is a call to action for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system, the New Zealand Law Society said.

“This report contains some very stark messages and conclusions. Group chair Chester Borrows says the overwhelming impression from people who have experienced the criminal justice system is one of grief. That is a call to action, and the need for involvement by all stakeholders,” said Tiana Epati, New Zealand Law Society president.

The report, released Sunday, found that grief and colonisation are at the heart of the criminal justice system, which it said must change since it is “clearly not working.”

“There is also a strong message of hope for change. Mr Borrows says the group believes solutions already exist and there is a national will to build a criminal justice system to meet the needs of our country in 2019 and beyond. The next report from the group will give its response and that will be an important moment,” Epati said. “This report highlights the need for access to justice to be a fundamental priority. We look forward to the group's suggestions on how everyone who becomes involved in the criminal justice process will be able to get better outcomes.”

Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group produced the report after more than 220 public meetings across New Zealand. The report said that “the [criminal justice] system is too focused on punishment and neglects prevention, rehabilitation, reconciliation and repair of the harm done by the crime.”

The Law Society has been pushing for wholesale reform of the system for decades, Epati said.

“Right back to attempts in the early 1990s to replace the Crimes Act 1961, the Law Society has called for wholesale reform rather than the piecemeal, knee-jerk reaction approach which has occurred,” she said. “The report released today has provided us with a broad-ranging set of principles which come from many parts of our communities. A principled approach must be the driving force for change. It is also important to ensure that the reforms are accompanied by recognition of the need to ensure New Zealand has a human rights-based criminal trial process. The rights of all defendants to a fair trial must remain a foundation stone of criminal justice. The New Zealand Law Society fully supports the work Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group is doing, and we look forward to continuing involvement in the reform process.”