The number of cultural reports and their cost to taxpayers has sky-rocketed, with mixed views on whether they are a good use of more than $3 million that could have been spent on rehabilitation rather than report writing.
Figures provided under the Official Information Act show the number of cultural reports invoiced to the Ministry of Justice shot up from 346 in 2019 to 1557 in 2020. The cost to the ministry rose from $639,311 in 2019 to $3,299,373 last year.
That’s $2,200 per report and I can almost guarantee you 90% of them are identical boiler plate templates with a small amount of customisation.
“But why are we as a nation spending $3 million a year on these reports, when it would be better spent on the prisoners and rehabilitation?”
Much of what is covered in S27 reports was and is still covered in pre-sentence reports, Money said.
“Anyone who has been a regular attendee of court over the years knows full well that judges have always considered mitigating factors such as those outlined in these reports, and have usually given a 15 to 20 per cent discount to the end sentence,” she said.
“If the system was functioning properly – and I think it was – we would be able to look at all of these things without spending exorbitant sums on S27 reports. And we’d do it for both sides, so the judge understood the effect on the survivor and their family and what rehabilitation might look like for them,” she said
“It’s hard not to be cynical about this and see it as a money-making exercise for some people. I know of some people who spend hours with whānau and write good, thorough reports for free. But others really are just ‘cut and paste’ and easy money.
“From what I see, the end result is the same with or without a cultural report,” Money said.
I can only agree that we should spend more money on rehabilitation and less money on report writing.