28 Jul 2016

Māori reoffending too complex to blame on Corrections, Crown says

3:22 pm on 28 July 2016

A Crown lawyer and Corrections staff member have responded to a Waitangi Tribunal claim that the department is failing to rehabilitate Māori inmates.

Inside Otago Prison near Milton

A lawyer for the Department of Corrections disputes a claim that it is failing to rehabilitate Māori offenders. Photo: DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Crown lawyer Aaron Perkins QC opened the Crown submissions by saying the reasons for Māori reoffending were complex and could not be blamed on Corrections alone.

It was a national issue, he said.

"Both the claimant and the Crown are agreed that the overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system and the disproportionate rates of offending and reoffending present an extremely serious issue," Mr Perkins said. "It should be a concern to all New Zealanders."

Mr Perkins said the role of Corrections in reducing reoffending had to be seen in the context of socio-economic factors that contributed to crime.

"However, the Crown strongly disputes that the situation is due to acts and omissions of the department. The socio-economic factors underpinning offending and reoffending are beyond the control of the department.

"Realistically, these fundamental social issues need to be substantially addressed before such a goal could be realistically achievable."

Mr Perkins said Corrections could not be held responsible for Māori reoffending when the reasons were much wider than the department.

"At any point in time, the vast majority of Māori are not incarcerated or subject to a community-based sentence. Most New Zealanders understand that there is a clear link between socio-economic disadvantage and offending."

The hearing continues for the rest of the week with submissions from Crown witnesses.