9 Jun 2018

Making the justice system more just

8:24 pm on 9 June 2018

Lawyers, psychiatrists and people who have been in prison are gathering at a conference in Russell this weekend to consider how the justice system could be made more just.

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Photo: 123rf

The conference has been arranged by the Sir Peter Williams QC Penal Reform League, an organisation established in the name of the high profile criminal barrister, who died in 2015.

It is taking place at a time when New Zealand has one of the highest imprisonment rates of all OECD countries.

Sir Peter Williams' widow, Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams, who is herself a barrister, said it was the second time the organisation had held such a conference and the first one last year was very successful.

Among the speakers this time are Judge Greg Davis, who will talk about the positive impact of rangatahi courts for young Māori, along with experts in rehabilitation for methamphetamine users.

Ranjna Patel, a member of the New Zealand board for Global Women will also speak about work she has done to help those who act violently against family members.

In December 2014, she opened a residential facility to work in an innovative way with those people and since then two more homes have been opened in Auckland.

Lady Heeni said all those attending the conference were passionate about justice issues and she was hoping lawyers would find this year's sessions particularly useful.

"All of these issues are to do with prisons, to do with courts, to do with mental health and institutions and rehabilitation places.

"It's a way for lawyers to become more resourceful in how they deal with their clients."

Lady Heeni said the conference sessions would also be recorded and any recommendations coming out of them would be passed on to the powers that be in the justice sector.

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