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Policing Amendmen Bill - Second reading : Rahui Katene

Policing (Storage of Youth Identifying Particulars) Amendment Bill
Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga
Thursday 18 August 2011

There is an enormous body of literature associated with existing police bias and over-scrutiny of Maori, which I would hope has been explored in full before this Bill was drafted.

It is disturbing to be in this chamber, and to hear the frivolous banter going across the House about members being a child at heart, or being scruffy and dirty.

Disturbing because we are talking about an extremely serious issue – and I am not talking about police powers – I am talking about the wellbeing and the future of our youth.

I want to firstly respond to the comments of the Minister that she was disappointed that we have drawn light to the fact that the public were not made aware of this issue until a few hours ago.

And I want to challenge both Minister Collins and Mrs King to read the Hansard – I did not say at any point in my call on the first reading of this Bill that this was a conspiracy – what I said was “is this conspiracy theory?

Clearly the question has got people excited – but let us not shirk from the responsibilities of debating in a manner which is open and allows different points of view.

Yes, the Maori Party did receive a copy of this bill as is expected in the relationship and confidence supply agreement.

But a key statement in that same agreement is that, and I quote “in the event that National Party-led Government papers are provided to the Maori Party in the course of consultation or briefings they shall be treated as confidential and shall not be released or the information used for any public purpose”.

And so, while we were given the draft bill ten days ago, it was not until 9.30am this morning that the bill was introduced and we were therefore able to talk about this publicly.

We take issues of confidentiality and good faith seriously – and so we did not leak the paper – we did not speak publicly about this issue –we did not contact our networks – we did not seek feedback until the information was made public – and I would hope that would be acknowledged by the Minister.

I also take in mind what the honourable Annette King has said about there being five big reports which justify this move to store the unique personal identifying material of our rangatahi.

Just as a starting point – let me share with you at least the same number of big reports which create a certain level of truth to the allegation that crime will be found where it is most looked for.

We could start reading the vital resource produced by Hon Justice Eddie Durie in 2007, The Study of Maori Offending.

There is the evidence published in 2003 in Professor David Fergusson’s 21 year longitudinal study on ethnicity and criminal convictions; which breaks down the data into both police contact statistics, and by criminal convictions.

Moana Jackson’s study, in 1988, should be a core text of any lawyer training – The Maori and the Criminal Justice System, He Whaipaanga Hou – a New Perspective.

There’s the research by Pania Te Whaiti and Michael Roguski, Maori Perceptions of the Police and Police Perceptions of Maori.

And former Commissioner Peter Doone’s report of Combating and Preventing Crime, published by the now defunct Crime Prevention Unit, in the Ministry of Justice.

These are just a few reports which must be considered within the debate if we are truly to exercise due diligence in looking at this issue.

Essentially the key point is that while making up only 15% of the general population, Maori currently comprise 40-45% of all Police apprehensions. The question that this House is yet to tackle is why are Māori over-represented in the criminal justice system?

But there is an even more pressing issue that we must attend to.

Let me quote from the opening address from His Honour Judge Andrew Becroft, Principal Youth Court Judge, at my hometown of Nelson, at the Ngakia Kia Puawai Conference 2005 : Maori youth offending. Judge Becroft said:
“Maori youth offenders make up around 50% of all youth offenders but in some Youth Courts the figure is as high as 80% or 90% - despite Maori encompassing only about a quarter of the New Zealand population under 17 years of age. This situation is deeply concerning to everyone involved in youth justice”.

Absolutely so.

And so why is this Parliament – apart from the Maori Party and the Green Party – prepared to put so much focus into increasing police powers, rather than giving some serious consideration to the focus of an ethnic bias in the New Zealand arrest-conviction process.

What all of the research I cited earlier indicates, is that Maori with a given history of offending are more likely to be convicted than non-Maori with the same offending history and social background.

In another report called Whanake Rangatahi, Te Puni Kokiri revealed that Maori youth are three times more likely to be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted than non-Maori youth

Mr Speaker, the other very significant issue that I think has been woefully overlooked so far in this debate, is that this is a bill which targets our young people.

As such, surely it is essential that young people contribute to this debate. What do we have to lose? Why wouldn’t we want to hear the views of our young people about this issue?

Two months ago, Rethinking Crime and Punishment called a meeting of young people (16 to early 30s), to discuss the establishment of a Young People's Forum. They were concerned that the voice of young people is absent from the conversation about crime and justice.

Despite the fact that young people are the most involved in the criminal justice system – both as victims and offenders – young people are missing from the debate.

At that inaugural meeting of the Young People’s Forum they raised some key issues, which I would hope could be heard in this House:

They wanted to be involved in creating, influencing, shaping, designing and contributing to policy and strategy.

They wanted to see a strong young people's voice speaking out on crime and justice issues, and gaining the attention of policy makers, researchers, and those involved in the political process.

They sought our support in assessing and responding to the needs of young people in decision-making and planning processes, but wanted to have ownership. They were not interested in paternalism or tokenism.

Mr Speaker, there has been a lot said already in this debate about the concept that “mistakes are made”.

Well – let me share with you a comment made by Emily Whittaker on Pita Sharples’ facebook page, at 11am today

It is not fair that our rangatahi records be kept by the police for future use. Many of our Rangatahi make mistakes like we all do, and, in a lot of cases they regret their misdoings. Rangatahi are entitled to another chance. Why should they be the target for negative actions created by government? Why not focus on the positive and encourage our Rangatahi to stay out of the justice system altogether. I strongly oppose this bill.

Or here’s another comment, from Awhina Rameka-Waapu:

Ae it would be relevant to all youth, engari, this is discriminatory policy. Māori are over-represented at
every stage of the criminal justice process and can be seen as a result of bias that operates within the criminal justice system. (Dept of Corrections, 2007). As such, this policy will only exacerbate this bias and discrimination. Additionally, all youth will make stupid mistakes in their lives, we must provide the opportunity for second chances. This policy will take that away from them

Mr Speaker, Mrs King stated earlier that there is a cost to justice.

The Maori Party will never resile from our belief that the cost to justice that keeps on keeping on, is the opportunity cost lost to our young people.

We must not be afraid to hear what our young people have to say about this policy – and the Maori Party is doing what it can to bring that debate to the House today Our facebook pages, our twitter accounts, our telephones are working hard to hear what our rangatahi have to say – and we will place these views on the record.


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