24 Jan 2016

Māori Party supports review of the justice system

11:37 am on 24 January 2016

The Māori Party is supporting calls for an inquiry into why rising numbers of people are representing themselves in court.

In a report released earlier this week, the Law Society said the cost of legal representation was a primary reason for the trend.

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said institutional racism already existed in the justice system, and the report added further weight to the view that not everyone has equal access or representation in the system.

Legal aid funding needed to increase to help New Zealanders, including those from minority groups who faced prejudice in the legal system, he said.

A review of legal aid would also be an opportunity to consider incorporating tikanga Māori into the way the justice system operates, the Māori Party said.

Kim Workman, a former head of the prison service who co-founded the lobby group Rethinking Crime and Punishment, said the court system was formal and difficult to understand.

He said prisoners applying for bail often had to make their own case with no legal representation.