The Māori Party supports the call by the New Zealand Law Society for an inquiry in to why more people are representing themselves in Court.
The Law Society says the cost of legal representation is a primary reason for the rise in self-representation.
The Māori Party says a full review of the justice system is long overdue.
“We already know institutional racism exists in the justice system with more Māori and Pasifika people being apprehended, arrested, charged and convicted than Pākeha. This report adds further weight to the view that not everyone has equal access or representation in the justice system”, says Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.
Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox supports the Law Society’s view that the legal aid system needs to be reviewed.
“We support anyone who wants to represent themselves in Court. But, the bottom line is that we need to find out why fewer people have access to legal representation given the expectation of the justice system is that people are represented by a lawyer. We knew more people would start representing themselves as a result of legal aid being cut back. We believe legal aid funding needs to increase to help New Zealanders including minority groups of people who face prejudice in the legal system”, she says.
The Māori Party says a review would also be an opportunity to consider incorporating tikanga Māori into the way our legal structure operates.
It believes a more restorative process across the justice system, particularly in the family court, is needed. The plan is to introduce Whānau Facilitators who will work closely with hapū and iwi, and will support families throughout the family court system.