Andrew Little signals overhaul of criminal justice system in face of rising prison populations

After the New Zealand mega prison plans were scrapped, the Government are looking at changes to the criminal justice system to tackle the rising prison population alongside a relatively static crime rate.  

Justice Minister Andrew Little said they were aiming for an overhaul of New Zealand's criminal justice system "that achieves some pretty fundamental objectives". 

Andrew Little says people in prison with nowhere to go are choking the system, but not everyone backs his idea. Source: 1 NEWS

"I'm a big fan of doing it once, and doing it right," he said. 

The recent increase in the prison population also comes after the government made changes to the Bail law in 2013.

"We are now starting to understand, for those who have been declined bail, what the reasons for that were," Mr Little told media today. 

Former Justice Minister Judith Collins said her concern "is always public safety". Source: 1 NEWS

"In some cases, it's not having a suitable place to be bailed to, in some cases things like electronic bail weren't available, or there wasn't commitment to an adequate response time."

"It's making sure if we're going to change those things, we have to make sure people who are bailed to the community, pending a trial, that the community is still safe," Mr Little said. 

Yesterday the government announced it would not develop a $1 billion mega prison in place of the ageing Waikeria Prison. Six-hundred rapid-build modular units are being created in the meantime. 

National MP and former Justice Minister Judith Collins was critical of changes to the bail law, saying her concern was "always about public safety". 

"There's a good place for them, it's called prison." 

"They're the same people who are beating up their spouses, those are the people we're talking about, and I don't want to see those people out."

"In many cases they've had many chances, over the years and one of the problems with letting them out on bail is that they then pressure their spouse to withdraw their evidence and not to stand by it, and they just keep on doing what they're doing."

"The Government is happy to spend $ billion on diplomats; I'd rather spend $1 billion on keeping people safe."

When asked if changed to bail laws would be a hard-sell to Labour's coalition partner NZ First, Mr Little said "people will see there is a better way with dealing with offenders across the spectrum".

"We know that the majority of prisoners offend because of a whole heap of other reasons, and if we address them... they stop the offending, they don't spend lengthy periods in prison and the community are safer as a result.    

"I think it's about saying, where is the best place for a person, pending their trial, to be. Is it in prison, at a cost of $100,000 a year, is it somewhere else, bearing in mind the community still has to be safe."

Mr Little said implementation of some criminal justice changes would be seen next year.

The Justice Minister said community safety was the priority, but changes to reduce the prison population could be on the horizon. Source: 1 NEWS