Doomed To Fail – ‘Tough On Crime’ Govt Cuts Teams Speeding Up Justice System – PSA

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The Government is set to axe the expert joint agency teams charged with unclogging the justice system, at the same time the country is facing unprecedented court delays, and a prison system straining from a blowout in the remand population.

New Zealand has a huge problem with court delays, given 43% of prisoners are unsentenced and awaiting court processes. This is a complete anomaly internationally and the team established to respond to this is now being cut.

“It’s hard to understand why a ‘tough on crime’ Government which needs the justice system to work better and faster would allow this to happen,” said Alex Davies, Assistant Secretary for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

“It’s just another own goal from these reckless, short-sighted spending cuts.”

The Ministry of Justice is proposing to shed 68 roles from the two teams at Justice and Corrections focused on speeding up and improving the justice system. These teams are tasked with working together to improve outcomes and efficiency across the whole system, including speeding up defendants’ cases being heard, minimising time spent on remand, and reversing the increased wastage of court time by reducing the number of court adjournments at sentencing.

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“The Government in its latest quarterly plan makes law and order a top priority. That means a focus on jailing more offenders for longer and increasing the number of people facing charges and being held on remand.

“That will pile more pressure on an already stressed justice system, particularly our overpopulated prisons. Cutting the team dedicated to delivering the better outcomes the Government is demanding of all public services undermines the whole system and does nothing to advance law and order.

“The expertise that Corrections brings to the problem is being dumped, leaving a much smaller team at Justice to keep doing this important mahi. By choosing to site the new team solely within Justice, the benefits of cross agency analysis will be lost.

“The criminal justice pipeline is by nature an interdependent ecosystem, where levers pulled in one agency, affect others. For this reason, cross agency efforts have been essential to improve how the system works for those who experience it.

“The teams being disestablished are specifically focused on ensuring timely access to justice, improving victims’ experience, supporting access to lawyers on remand, refining contact between the Parole Board and victims, and reducing roadblocks to progressing cases.

“A safe and just New Zealand is about more than building prison beds. If the Government wants to deliver on its rhetoric, then the people they are getting rid of are the people that have the expertise to make the system work better for everyone.

“None of this makes sense and shows again how poorly thought through these spending cuts are.

“As we have seen with so many other cuts, this is all driven by ideology, downsizing the public service without regard to the consequences for all of us in Aotearoa who need our public service to function efficiently and justly,” said Alex Davies.

Background note

– The Ministry of Justice is proposing to shed 68 roles from two teams at Justice and Corrections, merging the High Impact Innovation Programme (HIIP) team at Corrections with the Sector Directorate team at Justice.

– 47 roles are proposed to go from HIIP and 21 from the Sector Directorate.

– The smaller merged team comprising 25 roles would be housed at Justice and serve the justice sector (Justice, Courts, Police, Corrections, Crown Law and Oranga Tamariki).

Note: The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi is Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest trade union, representing and supporting more than 95,000 workers across central government, state-owned enterprises, local councils, health boards and community groups.

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