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Independent Police Conduct Authority not Independent - Mana

MANA says Independent Police Conduct Authority not Independent

MANA Justice spokesperson Annette Sykes says the Independent Conduct Authority does not need to be scrapped as called for by Maori Affairs minister Pita Sharples – it just needs to be made “independent” which it is not.

Annette Sykes says the problem with the current system is that it is only funded to review 30% of the cases independently; the other 70% are the Police investigating Police.

"All New Zealanders need an Independent body to review Police conduct to ensure confidence and a credible system of justice is maintained.

“While the IPCA has the funds to investigate cases that attract media attention, it is not good enough for citizens to have to hope they are part of the 30% or stage their own press conference in the hope their complaint can be reviewed independently.”

She says if ordinary citizens can't trust that their complaints against Police are to be fairly heard then they lose faith in a system that seems decidedly stacked in favour of the Crown and its prosecution arm.

“MANA believes we must gain people's faith back in the system by being transparent and fair. The current system of Police investigating Police is not transparent nor fair."

Annette Sykes says while a truly independent system for handling complaints is needed for all New Zealanders yet this alone is insufficient for Maori to gain trust in these processes.

“A different Justice system for Maori which runs in parallel to the present system has long been called for with the first study being completed in 1987 by esteemed Maori Jurist Moana Jackson but with more recent reports supporting the call for a different approach to stem the tide of criminalisation of Maori.

“It’s not just with complaint investigation that the system is failing Maori the whole justice system is discriminatory as a rudimentary analysis of statistics in the justice area confirms. Maori are more likely to questioned by Police, more likely to be charged with harsher charges, and more likely to be given longer and stiffer sentences including imprisonment.

“It’s not just MANA saying this, there is a wide body of robust independent research supporting our view.”

“The impact it is having on individual Maori and whanau is horrendous and unacceptable in a society that considers itself fair and just.”

Annette Sykes says the whole legal process is foreign to Maori and a system which is culturally fair and non discriminatory is urgently needed.

“Even by its own principles the present system of justice is unjust for while it holds that a person has the right to be tried by their peers when the Juries Act was amended so that Maori offenders could not as of right have Maori juries the perceptions of discrimination were cemented further.

“Now the disconnect is obvious when the majority of Maori who appear before the Courts are judged by wealthy middle and upper class men and women from the judiciary or by juries who have little or nil understanding of Maori things.

“A survey of top barristers in 2009 by the Independent newspaper found some judges were described "idiosyncratic, arrogant, inflexible and not up to the job intellectually", Ms Sykes noted.

“If that can be observed by top barristers just imagine what those being dealt with by these processes feel.”

Ms Sykes says the timing of Dr Pita Sharples announcements on this significant reality for Maori also risks a serious matter of becoming a political football.

“It is also curious,” said Ms Sykes, “Given that we know that the Maori Party maintained their relationship with National and the Act party as they indiscriminately imposed a range of measures which have impacted grievously against Maori including the three strikes laws, the taking of DNA samples, the reform and denial of access to justice with the wide sweeping reforms on legal aid entitlement and the denial of a right to jury trial for those facing offences less than two years imprisonment.

“One has to ask why Dr Sharples did not disengage from his relationship with National Party then given the impacts that these reforms have cumulatively had in entrenching discriminatory outcomes on Maori youth who only really want work and sufficient income to maintain a decent life”.

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