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Ministry of Justice must act on UN’s recommendations

Howard League calls on Ministry of Justice to act on UN Working group’s preliminary recommendations

The UN Working group on arbitrary detention today released its preliminary report on New Zealand. “The Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims Act 2005 and subsequent amending legislation extending it, is in breach of New Zealand’s international law obligations”, says the working group.

Howard League for Penal Reform’s Wellington spokesperson Madeleine Rose says that “prisoners must have the right to an effective remedy when they are injured or harmed. “It is good to see that the violation of international law has been acknowledged by the working group” says Rose. The group noted that the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill as it stands before Parliament is also not in compliance with international law.

The Working group raised the issue of over-incarceration, with New Zealand being among the top ten countries for imprisonment numbers.

The Working group looked at the disproportionate number of Maori in prison. They recommended that “special attention be given to the disproportionate negative impacts on Maori of criminal justice legislation extending sentences or reducing probation or parole.” The group noted that Maori make up more than 65 percent of the female prison population, and that this is a very recent trend.

The group recommends that “a review is undertaken of the degree of inconsistencies and systemic bias against Maori at all the different levels of the criminal justice system, including the possible impact of recent legislative reforms”.

It was noted by the group the discretionary nature of Parole. That is that a prisoner may not get parole because they do not have accommodation to go to, and that this is a real problem.

The Howard League for Penal reform welcomes all the preliminary recommendations of the working group and calls on the Ministry of Justice to act on the recommendations.


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