30 Nov 2011

Cook Islands restorative justice schemes should free up legal process - lawyer

3:03 pm on 30 November 2011

A lawyer in the Cook Islands says restorative justice schemes will free up the court system and allow more serious matters to be dealt with more quickly.

The police are introducing diversion and pre-charge warning schemes which will target first-time offenders facing minor offences, which carry maximum penalties of less than a year's jail.

Under the scheme, offenders wouldn't receive criminal convictions, but would have to make good any damage and accept full responsibility for their actions.

A Cook Islands barrister, Norman George, who's also an MP, estimates about 90 percent of crime in the Cook Islands could be classified as minor crime, and some cases should never have gone to court.

"It also results, without these diversion opportunities, results in huge queues of cases waiting to be heard. We've had cases that's taken about two or three years to be heard, and not good enough. And I can see this new innovation as speeding up the due process and reducing the court list."

A Cook Islands lawyer Norman George.

The schemes will be reviewed in six months, before a decision is made about implementing them permanently.