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Criminal Bar Association - Section 27 Reports

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) expresses concern at the Government's proposal to defund S 27 Cultural Reports (Cultural Reports).

The CBA says the Sentencing Act 2002 represents a balance between providing for the interests of the victim by holding defendants accountable, and taking into consideration, where appropriate, the defendant's background.

Over recent years, Cultural Reports have provided valuable insight for sentencing judges, enabling them to properly evaluate a defendant's background and how it may impact the final sentence. A number of defendants come before the court having suffered from negative historical experiences, including extensive trauma in childhood. In these cases, it is appropriate that these factors are taken into account and, where appropriate, recognised during the sentencing process.

The CBA is concerned that the Government's proposal will lead to a two-tiered justice system and may impede access to justice for all. Those defendants who are able to privately fund a Cultural Report will continue to receive a sentencing benefit, while those who can’t may receive longer sentences. This will disproportionately impact Māori and Pacific Island defendants.

The withdrawal of funding is a false economy. Fewer Cultural Reports will result in a larger prison population serving longer periods of imprisonment. That cost to the Government will far exceed any modest savings that are obtained in defunding Cultural Reports. [The information provided in Cultural Reports may need to be obtained piecemeal by lawyers from third party agencies with consequent delay and transferred costs.]

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