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Model creates a new-look justice

Sir Kim Workman. PHOTO/FILE

A new criminal justice model is confirmed for Wairarapa, with a local criminal justice advocate endorsing the move.

The Te Ao Marama Kaupapa, which aims to infuse tikanga and te reo into mainstream court proceedings, will be rolled out to all district courts in stages this year, starting with Hamilton and Gisborne.

It would mean fewer formalities within the courtroom, and increased community involvement.

It aimed to address the drivers of offending.

While it was still unknown when the model would be introduced to Masterton District Court, a spokesperson for the office of the Chief District Court Judge confirmed the kaupapa [policy] would eventually be introduced nationwide.

“The Te Ao Marama model is not a pilot.

“The development and implementation of the Te Ao Marama model in Gisborne, which is a smaller, regional court, will help us shape how courts of a similar size, such as the Masterton District Court, could also adopt the Te Ao Marama model in the future.”

Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu said the model was a response to longstanding calls for transformative change to the justice system.

“Te Ao Marama means the world of light. For the District Court, it means a more enlightened approach to justice,” Judge Taumaunu said.

“Its focus will be centred on all people affected by the business of the court … by helping to ensure that barriers to meaningful participation in proceedings are identified and overcome.”

The model would likely differ between regions, to reflect the strengths of local iwi and communities in each location, the judge said.

Criminal justice advocate Sir Kim Workman said there was a need for systemic change, both in Wairarapa and nationally.

“The statistics really speak for themselves. There is an over-representation of Maori and, to some degree, Pacific people in our prisons.”

The kaupapa was the culmination of many years of work, he said, citing Te Whanau Awhina, a restorative justice programme developed by the Maori community for Te Atatu youth in the 1970s.

‘We know that the younger you refer a person to the criminal justice system to the courts, the more likely they are to embark on a criminal career.”

The intention of Te Ao Marama was to provide support for an offender and to get to the causes of offending.

Workman gave an example from his time as a police officer in the 1960s, when alcoholics would often be imprisoned.

“It wouldn’t stop them from being drunk again,” he said.

“A lot of the time criminal offending is a response to the underlying issues.”

While he acknowledged restorative justice programmes were often criticised for being “soft on crime”, especially when offenders reappeared before the courts, Workman said a multi-disciplinary approach was needed.

“The reality is, if you’re a drug addict or an alcoholic, it’s not unlikely you’re going to relapse before you straighten things out,” he said.

“They may not stop offending immediately, but all of a sudden their offending is less significant, and less often, until eventually it stops altogether.”

Te Ao Marama would also help the community to be involved in the criminal justice process.

“Often the victims are not really involved. They might get to make a victim impact statement but that’s it. In this approach you might see an offender working at a local dairy, instead of stealing from it.

“If you ask the prisoner, ‘who are you accountable to?’, they say ‘Well, I don’t know,’.

“When you deal with them in Te Ao Marama, all of a sudden they’re accountable to communities, kaumatua [elders], to the victim.

“It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

The model would be particularly beneficial to smaller or rural communities where people were more likely to be isolated, Workman said.

“Often within rural settings there are other issues which may result in the formation of gangs, for example.

It provides the opportunity to address those issues at a local level.

“This approach really puts the responsibility back where it belongs. It may create the energy from the community to address some of these problems themselves rather than abdicating that responsibility to the criminal justice system.”

The model would have volunteers, religious organisations, sporting groups and councils forming part of the solution, Workman said, with the community empowered to provide support.

“It’s really going back to the period before we had courts,” he said, saying how many different hapu [political units] had cohabited the area near Lake Wairarapa.

“The goal there was not to punish people, it was to maintain the balance of society, a level of well-being, and to solve conflicts, which in those days meant war,” Workman said.

“That peace-making approach is what’s happening in Te Ao Marama.

“You’ve harmed the community with your behaviour and now you need to be part of the solution.”

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