ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Too many people are priced out of the legal system, and the costs of using the system must be reduced where feasible, including:
- More use of alternative disputes resolution processes, especially mediation and arbitration as a right.
- Providing litigants with better means of avoiding delays such as the use of default procedures.
- Providing litigants with improved means of reviewing the fees charged by lawyers and other providers.
- Instruct the Law Commission together with the Human Rights Commission to urgently review the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to broaden its cover.
EFFICIENCY IN THE COURT SYSTEM
- Accelerate the streamlining of courts systems by supporting the Modernisation of Courts legislation now before parliament, reducing delays and costs.
- Review of the Disputes Tribunal to improve its performance by encouraging the appointment of legally qualified referees, and ensuring the adequacy of training for non-legally qualified referees.
- A review of the jurisdiction of the District Court.
- Much greater use of on-line documents must be achieved, using secure and trackable systems.
- Greater use of technology to reduce the amount of court hearing time.
IMPROVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACT
The fundamental objectives of the Act are not the problem and the current Government’s attack on them is opposed by New Zealand First, but the way the Act is administered commonly results in grossly excessive time and costs to obtain consents, especially for major projects. The means to address this include:
- Dumping the ‘one size fits all’ approach. Applicants for large projects having regional or national significance should be permitted to go directly to the Environment Court.
- Submissions which substantially duplicate each other will be consolidated into one or fewer submissions, to reduce time and expense.
- District and regional councils will be required to estimate the costs they intend to impose on applicants at the time the application is made, and to maintain those costs with increases only being permissible if circumstances change.
- Costs will not be charged to applicants, which relate to public benefit issues rather than issues relating to effects on the environment.
REDUCE THE PRISON POPULATION
Prisons will always be necessary for people convicted of serious crime; however New Zealand First supports greater use of alternatives where feasible. These will include:
- Wider use of home detention with mandatory reporting for approved work or training during the day.
- A greater range of non-custodial sentences such as the confiscation of specific property, larger and long term reparation payments and fines.
- Short, sharp custodial sentences, with dedicated, stipulated, supervised and monitored work.
ENSURE THAT THE LEGAL AID SYSTEM WORKS FAIRLY
The recent review of the Legal Services Agency will be ineffective in curbing the rise in the cost of the legal aid system in the long term; and increased use of public defenders is unlikely to reduce costs either, but will limit the right of an accused person to have the representation of their choice and with appropriate expertise. New Zealand First would reintroduce the right of accused persons to choose publicly funded private defenders for all cases of serious crime.
The best means of reducing costs is to streamline the process to determine who should receive legal aid and the quantum of it. New Zealand First supports the use of more discretionary decision making which employs not only the well tried ‘prospects of success’ considerations but also better use of expert analysis involving direct consultation with the applicant’s lawyer.
THE FUTURE OF CRIMINAL LAW REFORM
- Seek real and enduring solutions to offending. These require programmes to curb anti-social behaviour and remove economic deprivation, consistently over time.
- The fundamental causes of crime relate to economic disparity, and especially the unavailability of jobs and adequate rates of pay for those at ‘the bottom of the heap’.
- Attitudes which encourage rather than attack the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
- New Zealand First has comprehensive policies on education and training, economic development, job creation, wage rates, and social development, and sees them as the best means of reducing crime.
THE FUTURE OF FAMILY COURTS AND THEIR OPERATION
- Ensure that adequate counselling is made available, including state funding for parties not reasonably able to pay for their own, so that only those cases which have clearly developed into a dispute need to go to mediation or a court.
- Where matters require decisions of the Court the parties must have access to expert advice and representation. Legal aid will be available to all parties who are eligible under income/capital thresholds.
- A lawyer must always be appointed for the child or children, except only those cases where the judge assesses that representation is unnecessary.
PROPERTY RIGHTS AND CANTERBURY EARTHQUAKE ISSUES
New Zealand First will:
- Amend the Public Works Act on the issue of Resumption of Property so that adequate and fair compensation is received by home and property owners whose properties are required for Public Works.
- Amend the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act to ensure that it becomes human rights based rather than infrastructure and property based.
- Housing provision and appropriate regulation is the way forward.
- Freeze rents across Christchurch City for the next 2-3 years.
- Extend red zone deadlines so displaced homeowners can stay in their homes until their homes are repaired or rebuilt.
- Appoint another EQC project manager – not just Fletchers.
- Pressure Housing NZ and City Council to quickly repair social housing.
- Regulate insurers to ensure the timely repair of homes and rebuilds.
- Enable reviews of red zone compensation in special cases, and not stick rigidly to 2007 valuations.
- Ensure urgent action for the remaining red zoning of the Port Hills areas with updated valuations to take account of the delay since the 2007 valuations we imposed.
- Bare and uninsured land offers of 50 per cent will be withdrawn and replaced with 100 per cent offers, plus additional compensation for delay; and those who have already accepted the 50 per cent offer will be paid the remaining 50 per cent.
New Zealand First will:
- Ensure an accused can be re-tried for a crime where it is proved that an acquittal, or a change to a lesser offence, has resulted from intimidation perjury or the bribery of a victim, witness or juror.
- Remove concurrent sentences for those guilty of rape and for those who commit offences while on parole, on bail, or whilst in custody;
- Strengthen monitoring requirements in relation to community-based sentences.
- Review the adequacy of maximum sentences for serious criminal offences.
- Investigate the implementation of degrees of murder sentencing regime.
- Increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders.
- Require that upon conviction of a serious and/or violent crime non-citizens will be repatriated to the offender’s country of origin where possible.
VICTIMS' RIGHTS AND RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
New Zealand First will:
- Establish a group within the Ministry of Justice to oversee the effective co-ordination, funding and delivery of victim support services.
- Ensure that victim support groups receive adequate funding which reflects both the demand for and quality of the services they provide.
New Zealand First believes that the priority for reducing youth crime is ensuring all young people are engaged in full time employment.
New Zealand First will:
- Require greater parental responsibility for young offenders.
- Ensure that young recidivist offenders are dealt with by an expanded and reconstituted Youth Court with improved guidelines.
- Retain Family Group Conferences (FGC) for under 12 years offenders, but any such offender will be dealt with under this provision only three times, and thereafter will be dealt with by the adult criminal courts.
- Provide police with the powers and resources to address truant behaviour.
- Introduce stricter controls on the ratings of, and restrictions to the access to violent or sexually explicit videos.
- Raise the alcohol purchase age to 20 years.
Denis O'Rourke on this policy
"The recent review of the Legal Services Agency will be ineffective in curbing the rise in the cost of the legal aid system in the long term; and increased use of public defenders is unlikely to reduce costs either, but will limit the right of an accused person to have the representation of their choice and with appropriate expertise. New Zealand First would reintroduce the right of accused persons to choose publicly funded private defenders for all cases of serious crime."