9 Aug 2018

Andrew Little on the 'crisis' in criminal justice

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 9 August 2018

Justice Minister Andrew Little is calling for services for victims of crime to be more professionally-run, rather than relying on volunteers.

That's just one of his plans for reforming the justice sector, though he admits his ideas will be expensive to implement.

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Photo: Supplied

However, Mr Little said paying for improved victim and rehabilitative efforts was better than continuing to sink huge amounts of money into building new prisons every few years.

He told Nine to Noon some victims got good support, but many did not, especially once a case was handed over from police to the local Crown Solicitor.

"I've met victims who were meant to have a say on bail or sentencing, but were not told about it, didn't know where to be. A lot of victims turning out to trial have no idea about what is going on."

Mr Little said it was time for victim services to be professionally-run rather than relying on volunteers and that help should start as soon as a victim was drawn into the criminal justice system.

"Even at the time they're being interviewed by the police for the first time they have their person alongside them to be able to advise them - this is what's happening, this is why it's happening, this is what you must be prepared for next and give them the assistance they need to navigate their way through the system."

Mr Little was also keen to do more to rehabilitate those whose crimes lead them into prison.

Just being deprived of their liberty was pretty tough on prisoners, he said, knowing that for the next six months or six years they would be held in a confined place following a set routine.

However, he believed while a person was in state custody, there was an obligation to help them with issues such as illiteracy, depression and addiction, no matter how reluctant they were to receive such assistance.

"You're angry and you don't like the fact of what happened to you, but we're going to keep working with you to make sure by the time you're ready for release you have enough basic skills to survive on the outside.

"[To avoid prisoners being] drawn back into gangs or the community that got [them] into trouble in the first place and ... [give them] support ... on release to integrate back into the community."

Mr Little said making those changes could be tough for an individual, but it had to be done to reduce offending rates and victim numbers and make the community safer.

He acknowledged there would be costs associated with such large-scale change, but said that would have to be negotiated through the Budget process.

Mr Little was also expecting there to be some law changes before the next election.