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Ombudsman Recognises Blot that needs to be erased

Maori Party Welcomes Ombudsman’s Recognition of a “Blot that needs to be Erased”

Dr Pita Sharples, Member of Parliament for Tamaki Makaurau

Thursday 6 December 2007

The Maori Party has today endorsed the strong criticism conveyed by the Ombudsman, Mel Smith, regarding the government's failure to address the over-representation of Maori, and to a lesser extent Pacific peoples, in the criminal justice sector.

“We absolutely support his recommendation that this over-representation should be an area of significant focus for any Commission” said Dr Pita Sharples, Justice spokesperson for the Maori Party.

“There are two major issues of alarm that come out of the Ombudsman’s report for us” said Dr Sharples.

“The first is the suggestion that there is a problem around "consistency and fairness for Maori and Pacific peoples at all points in the criminal justice system where there is an element of discretion"” said Dr Sharples.

“How ironic is that – that the justice system itself becomes corrupted by the consequences of discretion and unevenness of decision-making” said Dr Sharples.

“The other extremely concerning information to surface from this report, is the impact of the differences of point of view between the Ministry of Justice and Te Puni Kokiri” said Dr Sharples.

“While we all recognise the right to differing views, the fact that the Ombudsman has concluded these differences have impeded progress in policy solutions is of huge concern”.

“Significantly, Mel Smith also points out that discussion on the Maori offending rate often features “empty rhetoric and sometimes gives rise to racist taunts”.

“Mr Smith observes that such a ‘sad’ disjunction between agencies is having an impact on the prison muster and on the development of positive programmes such as Project Mauriora, and programmes which focus on restorative justice”.

“These are all issues which the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Maori Affairs must make an urgent priority to address” said Dr Sharples.

“The Maori Party will be doing our damnest to make sure the ‘blots’ that Mel Smith have identified, are indeed erased in the pursuit of a justice system that is indeed fair and just in practice, in policy and in outcome” ended Dr Sharples.


ENDS

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