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

Ban 1080 activist denies killing native birds scattered across Parliament's steps by children - 'an act of theatre'

A Ban 1080 activist has denied killing any of the native birds that were scattered across Parliament's steps by children in a protest over the use of the pesticide.

Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard yesterday revealed five native birds were among those placed on the precinct - including two kererū which appear to have been bludgeoned to death.

He's laid a complaint with the police and the Department of Conservation (DOC). It is illegal to kill or possess native wildlife.

Department of Conservation staff say in the past month they've had their car tyres slashed and wheel nuts loosened. Source: 1 NEWS

One of the protest's leaders Alan Gurden told RNZ none of the creatures had been harmed by the protesters.

"They were dead creatures.... we're not the sort of people to go round killing birds to make a point."

The quail and weka were roadkill, but the other birds and mice had been collected from a 1080 drop-zone, he said.

"These animals were all killed from various methods but it certainly was not at the hand of us.... It was an act of theatre designed to show New Zealand what we put up with on the frontline."

He said the carcasses had been given to one of his friends to store after they were collected from drop-zones or from the roadside.

"I'm not going to divulge my source, but someone else brought those to the scene. They were laid on the steps by the children," Mr Gurden said.

"So technically I have never owned, or had in my possession, any native birds."

Mr Gurden refused to name his friend who stored the birds, but said there was "no way" he would have killed them.

"I've known him for quite a while. He's on the same cause as me and he has the same kaupapa as me," he said.

"There's no way he'd go out and kill birds to prove a point."

Mr Gurden said he had not been contacted by the police or DOC. In a statement, police said inquiries were ongoing.

Anti-1080 activists wielding placards and loudspeakers marched to Parliament over the weekend demanding an end to the use of the poison.

A vast array of conservation and farming organisations support the use of 1080, describing it is an effective pest control tool.

They include DOC, the Environmental Protection Agency, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and lobby groups like Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird.

- By Craig McCulloch

Marama Davidson said New Zealand needs "community-led conversations" about the use of 1080. Source: 1 NEWS

Hundreds of government staff stop work for waiata to mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Hundreds of government staff stopped work yesterday, not for a strike but a song.

For a few minutes, everyone at the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment's Wellington HQ was singing from the same song sheet.

It was a high point of the Ministry's Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori events, which included online teaching modules and helping people learn their mihi.

Staff lined the balconies to sing the waiata Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi - a song about coming together.

Hinemaua Rikirangi from the Ministry's Māori economic development team said, "the key thing is actually about encouraging people to make the effort".

"Those are some of the key steps that we hope to nurture and grow," she said.

“Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori was about celebrating the reo's taonga, or treasure, which is unique to Aotearoa.”

The enthusiasm rubbed off on some staff.

Deirdre Millar who came to Aotearoa from Ireland 12 years ago said, "it made me proud to see people embracing the indigenous language".

"Too many things get lost when a language is lost: your identity, your culture, everything," she said.

The ministry's longer term goal is to build awareness of the Māori culture and language to ensure the minority isn't forgotten in policy.

Raniera Albert, who led the waiata, said he hoped that in 10 years' time "Māori are at the forefront of policy decisions".

"Where we are not the afterthought of the afterthought, where New Zealand's policies work for, but for Pasifika as well."

Everyone at the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment's Wellington HQ was singing from the same song sheet as part of the ministry's Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori events. Source: 1 NEWS


From remand home to rap – young Dunedin men using rap to turn their lives around

Two young Dunedin men are using rap music to turn their lives around.

Cleveland and Hoepo had a troubled start to life and recently spent time in a remand home.

However, with the help of social worker Nan, the pair changed their mindset and are determined to rap themselves to a better future.

Seven Sharp has their inspiring story in the video above.

After a troubled start to life, Cleveland and Hoepo have changed their mindset around and are determined to rap themselves to a better future. Source: Seven Sharp

Appeal made against nine-year jail sentence handed to killer of Queensland toddler

The Queensland government is appealing the nine-year jail sentence handed down to the man who killed Caboolture toddler Mason Jet Lee in 2016.

Attorney General Yvette D'Ath said today she has lodged an appeal against the manslaughter sentence given to William Andrew O'Sullivan on August 30.

"Today an appeal has been lodged in the Mason Jet Lee case on my behalf after I gave consideration to the advice provided by the Director of Public Prosecution," Ms D'Ath told journalists.

"The grounds on which this appeal has been lodged is that we believe the sentence is manifestly inadequate and on that basis this appeal is being progressed."

Ms D'Ath said she wouldn't comment any further as the matter went through the legal process.

O'Sullivan, 37, was also convicted of child cruelty after failing to seek medical care when the boy suffered a broken leg and severe anal injuries about six months before he was killed in June 2016

The sentence handed down by Chief Justice Catherine Holmes means he could walk free in four years with time already served.

Mason's final hours were spent wrapped in a towel, lips blue, making grunting noises.

Traces of methamphetamine were found in his blood after he died.

O'Sullivan, who had long battled an addiction to drugs, particularly ice, tried to cover up his involvement in the little boy's death by blaming paramedics for taking too long to respond.

But they had taken only six minutes to arrive after being called by a friend.

He also lied to police by saying he found Mason with his lips blue and mouth clamped on a bottle before calling an ambulance and later claimed his 12-year- old "serial killer" daughter may have beaten him.

William O'Sullivan.