Waatea News Column: Three examples of Justice punishing Māori so much harsher


The first was the tragic case of Tipene Halford. The Hui’s investigative journalism brought his story to light while he was serving a 5-year jail sentence for having a drink of alcohol while on parole.Despite getting a student loan and qualification after prison, he was sent back and has been there for 5 and a half years for drinking booze.How unjust is that process to deprive a person of 5 and a half years of life for just a few drinks?The second example was the grim report on the way Māori Women are ritualistically abused inside our public prisons.The Human Rights Commission found segregation punishments were handed out with sadistic glee, pepper-spraying was rife and mothers purposely cut off from babies.This punishment regime was used against Māori and Pasifika women 93% of the time.The third example is the historic apology Police made to the victims of Lake Alice torture, almost half of whom were Māori.In each example, it is Maori suffering the harshest of punishments.Why?We’ve had almost 2 centuries of colonialism and the cultural denial that creates the why. Those who have benefitted from injustice ignore and attack any accountability for that historic grievance.Add to this denial a corporate media who feed our vengeance fantasies with a constant diet of crime porn and you have an electorate who want to make criminals suffer rather than rehabilitate them.If the prisoner is Maori, middle New Zealand wants the book thrown at them even harder.Until we challenge punitive social policy over healing human beings, we are never going to manage to lift this infected sense of punishment that curses everyone it touches.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. No comments here because unlike slinging off at rich people, anti-vaxxers, old people, etc, the very real problem of institutional racism and sexism as continuously displayed by Corrections will not go away.
    While torture and child abuse are sanctioned by the courts the problem will not go away. While the massive class divide engineered by predatory algorithms continues to slide into an unscalable chasm these problems will escalate.
    Recently the awful military withdrawal from Afghanistan highlighted the skewed priorities of the west when a planeload of dogs and cats were evacuated ahead of hundreds of humans.
    If dogs and cats were given solitary confinement and gassed in their kennels there would be a huge outcry.
    Telling a woman that her son has drowned and then cautioning her for her reaction is beyond inhuman.
    Ignoring independent reports and recommendations is hubristic to say the least, and as the department intend to continue using cell-buster pepper spray on women in prison the inhumanity continues.
    The only MP seen to be doing anything constructive about the plight of prisoners in this country is Rawiri Waititi, although I hope there are others, I really do.

  2. Great post Martyn and so true. You highlight not only the entrenched and brutalistic attitudes which remain in the system but also that no-one in authority is ever held to account for their conduct as you have outlined. Instead what you often get is a damning review of the institution or system that carried out the conduct followed by a hollow statement from the top person that the review/report has been accepted and changes have been made, but never is there any statement that a person or group of people have been held to account. At most, the person/people who have committed the wrong or injustice sometimes move on but with praise from even further up the ladder for all the wonderful work they have done and changes they have made.

    In the example of the abuse of women in prison there has not be one report of the torturers being held to account. In the example of the far too late and vacuous Police apology to the victims of torture in Lake Alice, the cop who oversaw the investigation and who made the decision to not charge the torturer has now retired but he should still be held to account through another action. He won’t be because he was of a very high rank and the very system of which he was part, supported his actions.

    Of all the institutions that cover up and not take responsibility for their actions, the cops are the worst because they know they get the backing of the Courts and of the (so called) Independent Police Conduct Authority. There are so many examples of this but one that comes to mind is the cop who not so long ago violently pushed over a person standing on the street at a party. The IPCA found that the cop had assaulted the party goer but the Police decided not to charge him. https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/officer-who-pushed-man-christchurch-party-wont-be-charged

    If the party goer had pushed the cop over in the same circumstances he would have been charged with a serious assault but the cops know that they can act with impunity and get away with their own unlawful actions.

    I’m picking that if the the lack of Police action in the Lake Alice torture case is reviewed the decision of the arrogant cop who decided not to charge the torturer will be justified and probably supported.

    What all this means is that the victims of torture and abuse by the state through its agencies including the cops will continue to be sidelined and will continue to be tortured and abused and pushed over at parties.

  3. also the slap with a wet bus ticket approach to fraud embezzlement and white collar crime in general doesn’t help..

    young maori steals a car – send him down

    entitled white woman steals a million – home detention and name suppression

    not good is it?

  4. I have mostly lived in Christchurch & overheard far too many racist conversations over my 60 years around the country so I can understand at least some of the difficulties faced by Maori & others in trying to achieve success in this life. As mentioned on another page on this site being poor only increases the difficulty in getting ahead. Unfortunately I suspect that most people are so indoctrinated with whatever values system they live by that very little will change as many people are content with whatever views they hold & regardless of what any new information says it only serves to reinforce their existing opinions.

  5. There’s a grand picture of my (incredibly … surprisingly) beautiful grandmother among her siblings, resplendent in crinolene on the verandah of her farmhouse before WW l. Since they arrived in NZ in 1908 no blood was spilt by them … except their house was built by a notorious anti-Maori 19th Century politician, who imported products from all round the world to build it. Blood seeps up.

    A crass farmer son cleared the place for a 60s bullshit modern house. I feel cleaner.


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