21 Jul 2021

Former National Party minister no fan of ACT gang policy

From Morning Report, 8:21 am on 21 July 2021

Justice advocate and former National Party minister Chester Borrows says the ACT Party's proposed policy on gangs does not stand up to scrutiny.

Borrows, a former police officer who was Courts Minister under the John Key government, told Morning Report he believed the proposals from the ACT Party would attract support, but he the chances of results were limited.

"It will be popular with a slice of the public, these measures don't seem to have worked anywhere else."

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows

Former National Party MP Chester Borrows Photo: RNZ

ACT's policy, announced on Tuesday, proposed tighter controls on beneficiary members of gangs, and would allow police to apply restrictions on any person on the National Gang List as long as they held a "reasonable belief" they posed a risk of dealing drugs or committing gang related violence.

"The injunction order could then be used to prohibit bad behaviours including being in a particular location or associating with particular people," ACT justice spokesperson Nicole McKee said.

"It could also be used to require positive actions, like attending rehabilitation."

Read more:

Borrows noted there was already a way to restrict beneficiaries from using benefits for alcohol and other purposes, via the payment card system.

He was not sure how other parts of the policy would be implemented.

"Most gang members don't walk around wearing gang patches all the time, does that require then police on every corner to pick up on their institutional knowledge as who might be in a gang and who isn't? What are the penalties going to be? Is it forcible ejection from that area where they're not supposed to be?"

Borrows instead favoured policy intervention on the social side.

"They [gangs] all come out of the same neighbourhoods, those neighbourhoods delineated by social class, economic status, employment vulnerability, under education, under achievement in health, welfare, and the economy, generally. Let's do something about that."

"Probably the greatest thing we could do about gangs is get every one of those government departments to actually talk to one another, and to put together a policy which is going to change it."

Support for Hard to Reach programme

Borrows also threw his support behind a meth rehabilitation programme linked to the Mongrel Mob that has been embroiled in controversy over recent weeks.

The programme run by the organisation Hard to Reach received $2.75 million from the Proceeds of Crime Fund, but the organisation has gang connections, prompting criticism from the National Party.

Read more:

"Almost any other organisation would be more appropriate to fund for this than a drug-peddling gang," National Party MP police spokesperson Simeon Brown said.

Borrows said the situation was more complex than that.

"When you're working with gangs, you can't put some scrubbed up, but highly educated academic, in front of the average gang member sitting in prison and expect that they're going to change their mind."

He said he supported initiatives that work, and he believed that the programme did appear to do that.