Marae justice panels

The Herald reports:

An expansion of a radical pilot that allows adults to avoid court and criminal convictions for low-level offences has strong backing, including from Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

Three pilot iwi justice panels – also known as marae justice panels – have been running in Manukau, Gisborne and Lower Hutt since July 2014. A similar community justice panel operates in Christchurch.

Police steer some low-level offenders to the panels instead of court. Offenders must be adults, must intimate guilt or admit the offence, and the offence must carry a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment or less.

Family violence and methamphetamine offences are excluded. Common charges dealt with by the panels include driving offences, possession of stolen goods and trespassing.

Appearances aren’t limited to Maori – in South for example, about 60 per cent of participants are non-Maori.

I’d be against this if it was race based, but if they are effective, open to all, and reduce reoffending they’re a good thing.

The threshold seems appropriate – minor offences only.

If an offender is not a recividist offender or a violent or sexual offender, then the focus should be on rehabilitation and stopping reoffending.

But when the offences are serious (such as rape, GBH) or someone is a recividist (a repeat burglar) then the main focus has to be on protecting the community by having them out of circulation.

Panellists always include one police staff member and a mix of community leaders and volunteers, church leaders, kaumatua, social workers and school teachers.

Manukau Urban Authority (Muma) run their marae justice panels weekly at Nga Whare Watea Marae and Papakura Marae.

Irirangi Mako, justice services manager, said agreed actions with offenders include volunteering at a local marae or food bank, a formal apology to a victim or agreement to make repayments.

“Agreements can also include working with other agencies or services that support positive change such as counselling and anger management courses.”

The Ministry of Justice has noted a “huge” level of community support for restorative justice panels, saying once people enter the court system it becomes harder to address the causes of their offending.

The thing is to have a robust evaluation of how they work. What is the reoffending rate of those who go through these panels compared to those who do not (after adjusting for types of offences etc).

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