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"Useful" law Commission report misses big picture

16 March, 2004

"Useful" law Commission report misses big picture - Nandor

Green MP Nandor Tanczos said today that while the Law Commission report "Delivering Justice For All" released today contains some very useful proposals, it fails to address the fundamental flaw at the heart of the criminal justice system.

Nandor, the Green Justice spokesperson, said that people looking for an answer to why New Zealand's criminal justice system was not working would not find the answer in the 372-page document.

"The report makes some good recommendations, often at a technical level. That is valuable work. The real problem, though, is that the current adversarial system simply does not work," said Nandor.

"All the discussion in the report about the role of the justice system omits one important feature - reducing offending. Around 80% of people convicted in the courts have at least one previous conviction, yet cutting reoffending rates does not seem to figure."

Nandor said that he was disappointed that restorative justice, Maori justice processes and other options with real potential to address reoffending were given comparatively little weight by the commission.

"Perhaps the nature of the Law Commission meant that it was as concerned with maintaining judicial control over those processes as it was with their effectiveness."

Nandor said he nevertheless welcomed the report's recommendations, including proposals regarding the provision of better information to people facing the court system, better use of duty solicitors, more consistency around the use of infringement notices and a recommendation that police be obliged to inform detainees about the Police Detention Legal Aid Scheme.

"Going to court can be like performing in a play where everyone knows the script except you," said Nandor. "Better access to information will undoubtedly lead to less wrongful convictions that result from guilty pleas by innocent people who just want to get it all over with.

"Some of the more substantive recommendations around the future of the District Court and the Legal Aid Scheme are need to be carefully thought through but the Law Commission have provided a valuable springboard for discussions.

Nandor also highlighted the Law Commission's proposal for a new Community Court.

"Community Courts could be useful tools to simplify and make more accessible the criminal justice system. Those proposals should be looked at seriously by government" said Nandor.

ENDS

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