Labour lukewarm on latest proposal for courts

Saturday 25 February 2012, 2:36PM
By Labour Party

Addressing fundamental drivers of crime --- including alcohol abuse --- in a comprehensive and non-partisan way would do much more in the long run to fix the justice system than tinkering with the operation of courts, says Labour's Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel.

"For the past 3 years we've seen from National an odd combination of pure political gesture, cost-saving measures billed as reforms, and proposals for piecemeal changes to various parts of the system," Charles Chauvel said.

"In the first category are bills like the current measure to declare assaults on prison and police officers serious, while missing out ambulance operators and firefighters, although Labour has now managed to fix this.

"In the second category are last year's changes to criminal procedure --- which had to be drastically revised because of their effect on basic rights --- and the current moves to gut the availability of legal assistance to vulnerable children, and to Kiwis earning more than $24,000 a year.

"In the last category are recent Law Commission discussion papers --- last week over changes to jury trials and today over judicial appointment and sitting formalities.

"These often contain some good ideas, but will always be of limited effect if not enacted as part of a much broader rethink of our justice system," Charles Chauvel said.

"A non-partisan dialogue over the drivers of crime, then legislating solutions, would be a good starting point to a discussion on how to relieve pressure on our courts.

"Logically, this would include dealing with the pricing, availability and advertising of alcohol, rather than the reform bill before the House which fails to address any of these questions in a meaningful way.

"The new Justice Minister knows that Labour is ready to work with her on real reform. It would be great to see some," Charles Chauvel said.