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A Time for New Beginnings

A Time for New Beginnings

Thursday 15 September

An alternative court system aimed at rehabilitation and support of people who are homeless has been established in Auckland. The New Beginnings Court operates out of the central city, to provide more positive outcomes for those caught in a cycle of low-level offending.

On a recent trip to Auckland to meet with various social service agencies, Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM, visited The New Beginnings Court.

“We are very interested in how this programme develops, and whether a similar system can be adapted to Wellington”, says Stephanie.

The New Beginnings Court, Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou, allows participants to enter a more informal court process, and discuss their rehabilitation plan with the judge, legal support team and social worker.

To be eligible to participate in this programme, several criteria must be met. The person must have come before the courts for ongoing low-level offending; be over 17; have no fixed address or be homeless; be affected by mental health concerns, intellectual disability or chronic addiction; be willing to plead guilty to charges.

The concept of this alternative justice programme grew out of the increasing awareness of issues facing people who are vulnerable for whom public space type offending is greatly disproportionate to the rest of the population. Consequently, fines would be imposed on people with little ability to pay.

“This could be an effective model for improving outcomes for people who are homeless and regularly coming before the courts, spending time in police cells and receiving little further support to reduce their reoffending,” says Stephanie. “We will be raising the idea of the New Beginnings Court and its application to Wellington next week at the community hui on criminal justice.”

The hui will be held on Wednesday 22 September, focussing on how the health of homeless people can be improved through their contact with the criminal justice system.


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