Hours after we wrote about the failure of the ‘comical’ New Zealand justice system and calls for private police to patrol the streets of Hamilton (read Brazil’s Police Succeed Where NZ’s Police Fail) there have been two further developments. Both of them are parlous statements about New Zealand’s failure to bring its escalating crime problem under control.
1. Riot Gas and batons on the streets of Hamilton Hamilton police used riot gas and batons overnight to break up an attack on a police officer during a street brawl (the NZ media carefully avoided the word riot in their reporting). A 17 year old youth has been charged with assaulting a police officer and is due to appear in court.
2. Botched-up redaction of briefing paper A botched up briefing paper, prepared for the incoming Justice Minister, failed to properly redact sensitive sentences about cuts in police and court budgets, and other fiscal restrictions on the justice sector. The document was was released under the Official Information Act (demonstrating how much official information is sanitized before it is released to the public) with the redactions still visible. Here’s how it was reported in the New Zealand Herald
The final passage of the executive summary which was obscured noted that “sustaining an effective and trusted justice system does, however, require a level of baseline funding that is now under some pressure“. Later, the briefing – which covers the Justice Department, Police, Corrections, the Serious Fraud Office and Crown Law – notes that “despite significant progress within flat baselines, under the existing operating model and without new resource, the sector’s ability to continue improving performance is constrained’. “The current operating model (with fixed numbers of police, and a nation-wide network of courts and prisons) is likely to cost at least $140 million more than current baselines by 2017/18. Sustaining an effective and trusted justice system requires a level of baseline funding that is now under considerable pressure.” The briefing also says that, Courts and Police, allowing for inflation had experience cuts in funding of 7 per cent and 3 per cent since 2010. Earlier this year after the Government sliced a little more off their funding in the last Budget, Police officers warned “something will break” if their funding was squeezed any further.”
No doubt the people of Hamilton will agree with that last statement. Youth Crime But wait, there’s more. A solution to countering the country’s burgeoning number of youth offenders is to treat 17 year olds like children another year. The 17 year old arrested in Hamilton couldn’t have timed it better.
The briefing sets challenges for maintaining trust and confidence in the justice system including “Effective responses for 17 year olds”. “Currently the adult criminal jurisdiction begins at 17, which is out of step with comparable jurisdictions and international legal obligations. Evidence suggests better long term justice outcomes (reduced lifetime offending) and social and economic outcomes (improved skills and employment prospects) could be achieved by dealing with 17 year olds in a different way to adults,” the briefing says…” read the full news report here