Petty crime offenders get to front Maori panel and potentially avoid conviction

Small-time offenders are dodging the courtroom in favour of being judged by a panel of Maori elders at a South Auckland marae.

Small-time offenders are being given the option of dodging the courtroom in favour of being judged by a panel of elders at a South Auckland marae. Source: 1 NEWS

And, if the offenders do what they're told they avoid conviction.

The process so far has a 90 per cent success rate, and Maori are keen to have it rolled out across the country.

The community justice panel sits twice a month at Te Whare Waatea Marae in Mangere and gives offenders a chance to address the panel about what has happened.

The aim is to reach an agreement which is then sent to authorities for the charge to be removed from the national database.

About 150 people have faced the panel in the past 18 months and only one person has been referred back to the courts.

One teenager who fronted the panel recently for driving a second time without a licence was told his parents should take some responsibility.

Panel chairman Ted Ratana said the teen's offence would otherwise have clogged up the court's system at a great cost to the taxpayer.

"In giving this person a second chance, at mending their ways and staying on the right side of the law, we believe there is some scale of economics too," he said.

The teen walked away without a fine and a conviction.