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Prisoners denied access to justice

Prisoners denied access to justice

It is lamentable but perhaps understandable that when New Zealand is facing mass migration to Australia, growing inequality and some 270,000 children living in poverty that the Minister of Corrections should be involving herself in a smokescreen of being seen to be hard on prison inmates over smoking, when there are demonstrably more pressing issues that need the Government's urgent attention.

The newly minted Supplementary Order Paper presented to the House of Representatives by Minister Tolley which will have the effect of blocking recourse to Courts in relation to the smoking ban in prisons is offensive to human rights norms and amounts to bullying by a Government obviously embarrassed by its recent loss in the High Court.

Under international law as reflected in our Corrections Act, prison sentences must not be administered more restrictively than is reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law and the safety of the public, prison staff and the inmates. The Court correctly found that the Government's blanket ban on smoking did not meet the aims of the Corrections Act, which is to ensure that prison sentences are administered in a safe, secure, humane and effective manner. Neither was it shown that the ban was reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law or the safety of the public, corrections staff of other prisoners.

It is ironic that many inmates are serving sentences because they "took the law into their own hands", rather than turning to the Courts to seek relief. Now when inmates do just that and legitimately challenge the Government on its breaches of their fundamental rights, the Government shows a high handed disregard for its obligations and has no hesitation in blocking access to justice.


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