Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


UN Concerned At High Rates Of Juvenile And Māori Imprisonment

The United Nations Committee against Torture has called on the New Zealand Government to reduce the disproportionately high number of Māori in prisons and to improve the conditions of people in detention, noting that transformational change is needed. It also expressed concern about the use of pretrial detention, and lack of time limits for pretrial detention.

Addressing issues in juvenile justice, and fully implementing the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care’s recommendations, are also included in the UN Committee’s findings.

The Committee’s recommendations have been welcomed by Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman New Zealand, Mana Mokopuna Children and Young People’s Commission, and the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments, whose representatives presented to the UN Committee in July as part of the National Preventive Mechanism.

The Government has one year to report back to the UN Committee on its progress on the four priority recommendations contained in the Committee’s report.

Te Amokapua Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says “The root causes of high incarceration rates of our Indigenous People can be found – in great part - in the suppression they experienced and continue to experience through colonisation and its impacts.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

It is vital that our justice system doesn’t perpetuate this intergenerational harm on Māori.”

Hunt says the transformation of our criminal justice system is overdue and action is urgently needed.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says the UN’s findings echo the concerns he has repeatedly raised in many of his inspection reports, including in prisons and health and disability facilities. “I agree with the UN Committee which highlighted that overcrowding, poor conditions and staff shortages remain a problem in many places of detention, and criticised the use of spit hoods and pepper spray.”

“The fact the UN is recommending urgent change must be taken seriously by the New Zealand Government. These concerns are not new but they are serious. I am committed to monitoring the issues raised by the UN Committee, including critical areas like the provision of appropriate care in places of detention and harmful practices such as use of force, restraints, and solitary confinement.”

Chief Children’s Commissioner, Mana Mokopuna Judge Frances Eivers says “The UN calls again on our government to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, in line with the Convention Against Torture, and to end the practice of remanding children into custody.”

Eivers also urges an end to the use of secure care and the use of force, including restraints in youth justice residences.

“Our monitoring work as a National Preventive Mechanism consistently shows concerns about the way our justice system works for young people, especially mokopuna Māori who continue to be disproportionately represented.

What was really apparent through the hearings at the United Nations and the subsequent recommendations is that justice system serves as a pipeline to prison.”

Under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, combined with the Crimes of Torture Act 1989, four NPM monitoring agencies undertake regular visits to places of detention, aimed at preventing torture and ill-treatment including in prisons, police cells, military detention, health facilities and child and youth residences. As the central NPM, Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission coordinates the monitoring agencies and liaises between the NPM, the Government and UN bodies.


  • The NPM consists of five agencies, including Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman New Zealand, Mana Mokopuna Children and Young People’s Commission, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments Ombudsman, and the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).
  • Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo, the Chief Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments Alec Shariff, and representatives from the Ombudsman New Zealand, presented to the UN Committee in person. The IPCA did not attend the UN Committee review.
  • The New Zealand Government signed OPCAT in 2007. Unlike other human rights treaty processes which deal with human rights violations after they have happened, OPCAT is primarily concerned with prevention.
  • The full findings of the Committee against Torture are available here:
  • The Committee has asked the New Zealand Government to report back on priority areas, including conditions of detention and Māori incarceration rates, by 28 July 2024. New Zealand will next go before the Committee in 2027.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Newshub/Smokefree Twin Fiascos

Here’s a tale of two sunset industries. One has a track record of quality investigative reporting, and sound reportage of the 24/7 news cycle. The other sunset industry peddles a deadly substance that kills and injures tens of thousands of New Zealanders every year, while imposing significant annual costs on the public health system.

Which industry is this government rushing to assist..?


ACT: New Zealand Dodges Dopey Experiment In Prohibition

“Labour’s attempted crackdown on smokers would have delivered criminal groups a near-monopoly over the cigarette trade,” says ACT Health spokesman Todd Stephenson... More

Government: Backs Police To Crackdown On Gangs
The coalition Government is restoring law and order by providing police new tools to crack down on criminal gangs, says Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith and Police Minister Mark Mitchell. “Over the last five years gangs have recruited more than 3000 members, a 51 per cent increase... More

Government: Humanitarian Support For Gaza & West Bank

Winston Peters has announced NZ is providing a further $5M to respond to the extreme humanitarian need in Gaza and the West Bank. “The impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on civilians is absolutely appalling," he said... More

Government: New High Court Judge Appointed

Judith Collins has announced the appointment of Wellington Barrister Jason Scott McHerron as a High Court Judge. Justice McHerron graduated from the University of Otago with a BA in English Literature in 1994 and an LLB in 1996... More




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.