23 Sep 2015

New court system to benefit Māori

7:46 pm on 23 September 2015

Courts could see fewer tāngata whenua in prison and re-offendending if a more holistic model was used, say Māori working in the justice system.

Shane White, facilitator for Patua te Ngangara and operations manager at Hoani Waititi Marae trust.

Shane White, facilitator for Patua te Ngangara and operations manager at Hoani Waititi Marae trust. Photo: Supplied

They said an approach therapeutic jurisprudence had proved successful with tāngata whenua who end up in the legal system.

Khylee Quince an academic in youth justice and criminal law at the University of Auckland said therapeutic jurisprudence aimed to counter some of the negative feelings Māori can have towards the legal system.

She said it was a far less adversarial approach and was based on legal thinking that began about 20 years ago in the United States coming from the mental health law field.

"So judges, decision-makers, lawyers, legal personnel use processes of law to try and address some of the underlying causes of social harm. For example, it's using a legal process to address homelessness, addiction, family violence and the other aspect of therapeutic jurisprudence - it's the idea of specialist forums, specialist courts to deal with causes of harm."

She said there was a move towards making the model mainstream.

"In an ordinary court process the judges and lawyers often think of themselves - and they operate as if - they're the most important people in the room.

"A therapeutic approach is much more team focused. So all of the personnel that would be helpful to address whatever the cause of offending is, literally sit at the same table and address the case, and help engage that person."

Shane White is a facilitator for Patua te Ngangara and the operations manager at the Hoani Waititi Marae trust.

Mr White supports whānau and former prisoners deal with effects of methamphetamine, or p addiction, via the Alcohol and other Drug Treatment Court (AODTC) that operates as a pilot out of Waitakere and Auckland District Courts.

He said ex-prisoners were being more effectively rehabilitated using the system and it should be applied to more hardened criminals as well.

"What makes it holistic is the other social service providers and the wider family become heavily involved in the whole process. Right next door to the drug court there's all the other normal courts and the level of engagement seems to be much lower.

"People go to court to support their friends, but they sit at the back and they call that 'support'. 'I went to court to support my bro' - and I think, 'Well no, you sat at the back dressed up like a little Crips gangster and didn't say anything - that's not support'."

Rawiri Pene said he agreed.

He works as the Pou Oranga for the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court. Mr Pene said it uses a therapeutic jurisprudence model and it works.

He said because it uses partnerships and collaboration it was a successful bicultural approach.

Mr Pene said other alcohol and other drug treatment courts around the world do not have two roles which are unique to Aotearoa.

"Pou Oranga which brings a tikanga Māori, kaupapa Māori focus, and peer support which brings a lived, experience approach."

Mr Pene said he hoped the therapeutic principles applied in the AODTC would become normalised in the mainstream justice system.