ODT Editorial: The whistleblowing farce

 

New Zealand’s whistleblowing legislation (the Protected Disclosures Act) is an abject failure. That is not just because it is outdated, as some would claim. It was inadequate from its inception in 2000.

The debacle at the Ministry of Transport – where whistleblowers were victimised – is a sorry saga which reflects badly on the Government and the State Service and undermines trust.

Why, in the first place, was such a deficient law passed? Why, as has been revealed, is the legislation, limitations and all, not understood or monitored in many government departments?

In part, New Zealand politicians and public servants are complacent about corruption and fraud. They would rather leave their heads in the sand. In part, too, governments and departments are more concerned with possible embarrassment and protecting their own rather than safeguarding integrity. Bureaucratic inertia plays a role as well.

The Ministry of Transport saga again proves the pillars of democracy are as vital as ever.

Despite the blatant manipulation and lies from a senior Ministry of Transport manager, Joanne Harrison, now in jail for a $725,000 fraud, and despite several blasts on whistles from department staff, concerns were brushed aside, so it seems, over two or three years. Those who complained were targeted.

It took opposition MP Sue Moroney to take up the cause. Strong and free oppositions are integral to effective democracy.

But then, as Ms Moroney describes it, the State Services Commissioner declined to take up the case. It was only pestering through the media that prompted his investigation. A free media is essential in a free society. Its watchdog/backstop role should never be underestimated.

The powerful welcome its emasculation. Often large swathes of the public are happy to see it curtailed as well, not truly understanding its importance. Turkey and Poland, becoming more and more authoritarian, and with wide support, show how susceptible the public can be. There are also plenty of examples, albeit on narrower scales, in the West and in this country’s history. It does not seem to matter whether from the Left or the Right; in the name of the cause, including in pursuit of ”social justice”, free speech is strangled.

Recent abuse of the Official Information Act is a symptom of the growing political nature of the so-called public service, and the worst instances are disgraceful. It is an indictment of a trend that began under the previous Labour government and has become much worse. Proper processes and openness are vital safeguards. It will not be just the one ministry off the rails.

Ombudsman Peter Boshier, one anchor of the defences in our system, has said the Protected Disclosures Act needs ”a shot of adrenaline”. He has also voiced concerns about official responses outside the wording and/or the spirit of the Official Information Act.

Another key ”independent” public official is the Auditor-general, Martin Matthews. But he was chief executive of the Ministry of Transport at the time of the fraudster and the whistleblowing.

A report into his actions or lack or actions is due to be released any day. Surely, especially as a former assistant auditor-general, he should have been alert and appropriately responsive to the complaints, and have had an effective process in place.

Even State Services Minister Paula Bennett acknowledges the inadequacies of the Protected Disclosures Act. How could she not after the damming Ministry of Transport report.

What she and the Government, or a new government after September 23, must do urgently is completely change the Act. The threshold for reporting suspicions up the line must be lower and, crucially, there should be disclosure options through MPs and the media, however hard that is for the Government to stomach.

Tracey Barnett: The issue that four ex-prime ministers agree on

31 Jul, 2017

Ex-Prime Ministers Jim Bolger and Helen Clark are calling for politicians from all parties to welcome 500 more refugees immediately. Photo / File

By Tracey Barnett

When four ex-Prime Ministers were asked if New Zealand should welcome 500 more refugees now, this is what threw me – not one of them hesitated. There was no let’s-take-care-of-our-own-first, no diving into cost, or security.

There was only this: Yes. We should.

One by one, they picked up the pen to sign the same letter. This was from four very different former prime ministers, from different parties, different eras, with divergently distinguished paths after their 9th floor tenures. I guessed that even the letter’s wording would be some kind of erudite tussle. I was wrong.

There was our 33rd Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who still feels like the quintessential legal scholar about to step on to the judge’s bench when he walks through the door.

Mike Moore, our 34th Prime Minister, whose worldliness as the former Director of the World Trade Organisation and US Ambassador was quietly offset by his proud working man’s perspective.

Jim Bolger, our 35th Prime Minister, also a former US Ambassador and now University Chancellor who still commands a room like the consummate helmsmen.

Finally, Helen Clark, our 37th Prime Minister, whose tenure in the number three spot at the United Nations made her take on refugees feel particularly salient right now.

They had one thing in common. Time and distance has been a powerful clarifier.

Jim Bolger didn’t mince words.

“There are no rational arguments against us being more generous. None at all. We can do it. We can afford it. And we can offer that hand of welcome and friendship.

“We are talking about one of the great humanitarian crises of our time and I know that New Zealanders will want to help solve that,” said Bolger, former National Party Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997.

Former Labour Prime Minister, Mike Moore said a couple of thousand of refugees

Former Labour Prime Minister, Mike Moore said a couple of thousand of refugees “won’t hurt us”. Photo / Paul Estcourt

What do you say to those who don’t want to take more refugees?

“Just relax,” Bolger said, “show a little generosity and humanity for those who are suffering.”

Generosity. It was the one word repeated in each of the four interviews. Each time, the term was used in a larger context than money. This was about generosity of spirit, the collective will to do the right thing.

Are we contributing fairly? With our refugee quota at 750 refugees (1000 as of 2018), New Zealand just dropped to 121st lowest in the world for the total number of refugees and asylum seekers we host, measured by our GDP. If welcoming refugees was just about cost, how do we rationalise there are potentially 120 nations who are less wealthy than we are who do more?

Compassion is a strange animal. When the call goes out to take care of own first, we forget that we do that-roughly 99 per cent of the time. Less than 1 per cent of our budget goes to international aid, even if you add refugees into that number. If our domestic policies to help our neediest are failing Kiwis – yes, it’s vital we do better. But be careful not to unintentionally punish our newest Kiwi refugees too, roughly 40 per cent of whom are children.

If you have to put a price tag on the tiny portion of our budget that goes to doing good in this world, research shows that refugees pay us forward too. Studies in Europe show that for one Euro spent on refugees, the host country will reap two Euros five years on. John Key is the child of a refugee, Nicky Hager is too. So was the Jewish baker who brought us Vogel’s bread. Refugees enrich the fabric of who we are, not just economically in the long term.

In the stoushes that await us this election season, refugees have already gotten mistakenly swept up in the issue of immigrants, an entirely different category. Having 73,000 immigrants come here annually by choice is an economic issue. Accepting just 500 more refugees through a strongly vetted UNHCR system is a humanitarian issue.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer said New Zealand's refugee in-take has fallen behind and is not acceptable. Photo / NZPA

Sir Geoffrey Palmer said New Zealand’s refugee in-take has fallen behind and is not acceptable. Photo / NZPA

Are 500 refugees enough? No, not by a long shot. But it is a modest, obtainable start. It will be several years before we review our annual quota, a luxury of time desperate lives don’t have.

If we really are the compassionate people we believe ourselves to be, start now. Extend your hand to a camera with the words #500Now written in a whiteboard marker on your palm, then send it to our current Prime Minister and your MP. Stand up at a candidate forum and ask each candidate – no matter what party – “Will you publicly commit to taking 500 more refugees now?”

These four of our most respected statesmen and women didn’t hesitate.

Mike Moore offered some honesty too.

“The fact that all these ex-prime ministers came out with this is a sign that there’s an underlying guilt amongst us that we haven’t done enough. We are guilty. We haven’t done our job. It won’t hurt us. A couple of thousand of refugees – give me a break.”

Helen Clark

37th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Helen Clark, the former head of the United Nations Development programme, is one of four former New Zealand Prime Ministers to jointly call for the government to accept 500 more refugees immediately, as part of a new initiative “Welcome #500Now”.

“Another 500 refugees would be do-able. The government would have to budget the money for it. The NGO community and host communities who support resettlement would need to gear up, but its do-able within the resources we have.

“We want to be seen as a good-hearted country. Not a soft-hearted country, but a good-hearted country that wants to pull its weight. And the pride and self-esteem that comes from that is also a positive,” said Clark.

Clark said the big change since she was Prime Minister is the scale of the refugee challenge.

“The High Commission for refugees is very, very stretched. This is 2017, with 65 million forcibly displaced people around the world, a greater number than at the end of WWII.”

Jim Bolger

35th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Jim Bolger says there are “no rational arguments against us being more generous. None at all. We can do it. We can afford it. And we can offer that hand of welcome and friendship.

“We are talking about one of the great humanitarian crises of our time and I know that New Zealanders will want to help solve that,” said former National Party Prime Minister Bolger, currently the Chancellor of Waikato University.

“You can’t become tired of our common humanity. They are part of us. We all deserve the possibility of some kind of satisfying life.”

When asked what to say to those who do not want to take more refugees in New Zealand, Bolger replied, “Just relax. Show a little generosity and humanity for those who are suffering.”

Mike Moore

34th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Former Prime Minister Mike Moore says that the joint call among four former Prime Ministers to accept 500 more refugees now might also be a sign they should have done more in their respective tenures.

“The fact that all these ex-Prime Ministers have come out for this is a sign that there’s an underlying guilt amongst us that we haven’t done enough. We are guilty. We haven’t done our job. It won’t hurt us. A couple of thousand refugees. Give me a break,” said Moore.

Moore felt that our world ranking as 95th for the total number of refugees and asylum seekers we host per capita was shameful.

“Shame on us. We basically think we’re better than we are. But we’re not.

“One of the great joys of my life was being Labour Leader and people coming up in Wellington and saying, ‘I’m one of Peter Fraser’s babies. That is fabulous,” Moore said.

“We should welcome 500 now. They’d be fantastic New Zealanders,” Moore said.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer

33rd Prime Minister of New Zealand

Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer said New Zealand’s refugee intake has fallen behind and is not acceptable.

“When all is considered, the New Zealand government’s reluctance to carry its full weight of responsibility in this area of humanitarian relief is really not acceptable,” said Sir Geoffrey.

He said New Zealand’s increase should be far greater than 500.

“‘This has to be somewhat bold. I think if we are taking 1000 now, we should take 2000. If you’re going to increase it, you should resource it, and go for it.

“We have an obligation to have a heart, to obey human rights-which we all enjoy and they don’t. And it’s really important for New Zealand to show that it’s going to do its bit as a good international citizen.”

Tracey Barnett is a columnist and initiated “Welcome #500Now”. Learn more onFacebook at WagePeaceNZ

Extra spying on Dotcom confirmed – and police have known since 2013

 

Kim Dotcom was illegally spied on by the GCSB – new details show surveillance continued longer than previously admitted. Photo / Greg Bowker

There is now official confirmation that the unlawful interception of Kim Dotcom’s communications carried on two months longer than anyone previously admitted.

But still no one is talking about it.

The confirmation came from police who investigated the Government Communications Security Bureau over the illegal spying.

The GCSB surveillance operation was carried out in support of the police raid on Dotcom’s mansion on January 20, 2012, to assist the FBI takedown of the internet entrepreneur’s Megaupload business over copyright breaches.

A High Court judgment released last week revealed the unlawful spying by the GCSB on Dotcom and others carried on two months after the arrests were made.

The judgment stated: “The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has admitted unlawfully intercepting private communications of Kim and Mona Dotcom (the Dotcoms) and Bram van der Kolk during the period from 16 December 2011 to 22 March 2012.”

Selected portion of a source document hosted by DocumentCloud
The high court judgment this month extended the previous end date for surveillance to March 22 2012.
 There had been speculation the judge had simply got the date wrong but a police statement that detectives were aware of the dates during the 2012/2013 investigation has put an end to that.

The extended date completely blows out accepted truth around the unlawful spying, with GCSB staff testifying in sworn affidavits to the High Court and Court of Appeal that it ended on January 20, 2012.

The GCSB, its minister Chris Finlayson and Prime Minister Bill English have refused to comment on the extended date for the end of the spying operation, which is contrary to previous sworn testimony in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

All have said ongoing court action prevents them from doing so, with English personally named in Dotcom’s damages claim for compensation over the unlawful spying.

As acting Prime Minister in 2012, English was briefed on the spying operation in August 2012 before signing a special Ministerial Certificate intended to bury the GCSB’s involvement.

The certificate became worthless when it emerged the GCSB surveillance was illegal because Dotcom, his then-wife Mona and co-accused were protected as residents.

Selected portion of a source document hosted by DocumentCloud
Testimony from a GCSB staff member put the surveillance operation running from December 16 2011 to January 20 2012.

The revelation of the unlawful spying was the catalyst for huge reform at the GCSB, which is New Zealand’s link to a five-country spying network including Australia, Canada, the United States and United Kingdom.

Kim Dotcom making submissions to the Intelligence and Security select committee hearing into the GCSB in July 2013.

Kim Dotcom making submissions to the Intelligence and Security select committee hearing into the GCSB in July 2013.

It also led to a police inquiry called Operation Grey which saw GCSB staff investigated over the illegal surveillance.

It found that there was no case for prosecution because there was no intent to break the law – the GCSB staff believed Dotcom and others were legally able to the spied on.

The NZ Herald asked police whether a new investigation would be able to be carried out.

A spokesman for police said: “We’ve checked the file and can confirm that the dates you’ve highlighted were known to the Operation Grey team. They were considered as part of the investigation and decision-making about the outcome.”

The complaint was lodged by then-Green Party co-leader Russel Norman in September 2012, the same month Key apologised.

It was widened in April 2013 when an inquiry into the GCSB by then-Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge (now NZ Security Intelligence Service) found 88 individuals had been illegally spied on by the GCSB between 2003 and 2012.

 The police investigation was finished in August 2013 and a review supporting its conclusions was published by the Independent Police Conduct Agency in July 2014.

None of the material released publicly has extended the surveillance date with the exception of a statement of claim in Dotcom’s claim for damages – dated April 2013 – saying the GCSB had admitted some surveillance continued until January 30 2012 because there were automated systems which couldn’t be turned off.

A spokesman for the GCSB said: “As previously explained GCSB is not able to make comment on Justice Gilbert’s decision as Mr Dotcom has indicated he will appeal it.

“As is evident from the judgment, the different dates have been known to the Court and Mr Dotcom’s lawyers for some time.”

The illegal surveillance not only saw upheaval at the GCSB but also won an apology for Dotcom and others from then-prime minister Sir John Key.

Prime Minister John Key days before apologising to Kim Dotcom over illegal GCSB spying.

Prime Minister John Key days before apologising to Kim Dotcom over illegal GCSB spying.

It is unknown whether he – or English – were ever told the surveillance ended two months later than it was claimed at the time the apology was made.

It was also saw an inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

There is no detail in the Inspector-General’s report suggesting an end-date of the surveillance, but the inquiry at the time was based on different information it could require a fresh investigation.

Kitteridge’s report found the spies mistakenly believed they could carry out surveillance on New Zealand “residents” but not “permanent residents”, even though the legislation offered the same protection to both.

No one had properly checked Dotcom’s immigration status at the time surveillance started. A red flag was raised on February 20, 2012, and immigration records double-checked.

On February 27 2012 the GCSB’s legal advisor, Hugh Wolfensohn, eased concerns saying – wrongly – that the bureau had complied with the law.

RNZ: Protesters condemn govt’s Manus Island silence

Emile Donovan

 

The government is being urged to take a stand against Australia’s policy around asylum seekers, four years on from the official re-opening of the detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

No caption

About 30 people attended a protest at the Australian Embassy in Wellington today. Photo: RNZ / Emile Donovan

On this day four years ago, 19 July 2013, the Australia government under then-prime minister Kevin Rudd agreed a deal to detain all asylum seekers arriving by boat at a detention centre on the island while they were being processed.

Shortly after, another detention centre on the remote Micronesian island of Nauru was also reopened.

Those assessed and deemed legitimate refugees were allowed to resettle in Papua New Guinea.

The decision was met with local and international outrage, with detractors saying the decision was inhumane, and unfairly punished refugees.

There have been well-documented reports of human rights abuses of asylum seekers on both islands.

The high cost of detaining the asylum seekers has also been heavily criticised, with reports citing figures up to $7.5 billion.

According to the Australian government’s website, more than 1250 people were being detained at both detention centres as of last October.

No caption

Protesters outside the Australian Embassy. Photo: RNZ / Emile Donovan

About 30 people turned up to a protest today outside the Australian Embassy in Wellington, urging the New Zealand government to flex its ethical gumption and condemn the Australian government for its actions.

One of the protesters, Victoria Quade – who was born in Melbourne but has lived in Wellington for 30 years – said Australia’s treatment of desperate people was shameful.

“I teach English to migrant and refugees. They’re people. I don’t know if I could cope with this kind of thing that some of my students have faced and that’s why I’m here.”

The protest was organised by Amnesty International’s New Zealand branch.

Amnesty International New Zealand's executive director Grant Bayldon.

Grant Bayldon. Photo: RNZ / Emile Donovan

Its executive director, Grant Bayldon, said New Zealand’s passiveness in refusing to take a stand against its Antipodean neighbours was unconscionable, and flew in the face of the country’s principled past.

“The New Zealand government has been vocal speaking out on human rights abuses in other countries around the world, like Saudi Arabia and Iran, but it’s been completely silent on the issue of the abuse of asylum seekers and refugees in offshore detention by the Australian government.

“We definitely need to hear much more from the New Zealand government on this issue.”

Finally, hope for victims of domestic violence… Catriona MacLennan, Newsroom

 

Can domestic violence victims finally hope that the Family Court will start applying the Domestic Violence Act properly and provide them with the protection the law was designed to give them?

The Court of Appeal has handed down the most important decision on the act since it took effect more than 20 years ago.

The Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1995, following an inquiry conducted by retired Chief Justice Sir Ronald Davison after Alan Bristol killed his three daughters in 1994.

Sir Ronald recommended the law be strengthened to better protect domestic violence victims.

Parliament passed a new, tougher law. But, almost immediately, concerns arose about how Family Court judges interpreted and applied the law.

I was one of a group of lawyers in 1999 who organised a meeting with Family Court judges to discuss with them our concerns about how hard it was to obtain urgent protection orders.

Protection orders are the key mechanism under the act designed to keep women and children safe.

I spoke to judges at that meeting about my concerns with the irrelevant considerations being taken into account when judges decided whether or not to grant protection orders.

I have dealt with a case in which a judge refused to grant a final protection order because the parties were young.

That is not a criterion under the act for declining an order.

I have also dealt with cases in which a judge refused to grant a protection order because the women and children were in a Women’s Refuge and he thought they were safe.

That is not a criterion under the act for declining an order.

One judge said he thought about what was fair to the violent partner when he ruled on orders.

That is not a criterion under the act for declining an order.

A judge also said that physical violence within the past few days was required in order for an urgent protection order to be granted.

That is not what the Domestic Violence Act says.

My experience of misapplication of the law has been shared by many other family lawyers over the past two decades – and women and children’s safety has been compromised as a result.

That is why the Court of Appeal’s decision is so important.

It spells out very clearly and directly that the Domestic Violence Act is to be interpreted in plain language and to give effect to its purpose of protecting domestic violence victims.

A Family Court Judge had ruled that an interim protection order granted to SN should be discharged.

That is almost invariably the end of the matter: domestic violence victims are primarily trying to stay alive and keep their children safe.

They don’t have the time, money or energy to fight court cases. In addition, when they go to the Family Court seeking protection, it is a massive knock-back when they are disbelieved and their fears and experiences of violence are belittled and disregarded.

But SN and her lawyer fought on. They went to the Court of Appeal.

Our country has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world and the law designed to protect women and children has been wrongly interpreted for two decades.

Three judges heard the appeal and their decision was delivered by Justice Harrison.

He reviewed the physical and psychological abuse suffered by SN. This included two events of body slamming; Mr MN’s erratic and explosive temper; swearing and yelling; repeated breaches of the protection order; and the burning of hedge trimmings following an argument.

The Family Court judge looked at each event in isolation, and minimised and excused MN’s actions. He found that there had been only one event of psychological abuse and there had been no physical violence.

The Family Court judge said that some actions were explained by the stress of dividing the couple’s property and that SN was an “assertive and strong” person who did not need protection. He also said that one violent event had occurred “a considerable period ago” and that MN was well-regarded by his employer.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the Family Court judge was utterly wrong in his interpretation of the law.

Justice Harrison said that the words of the Domestic Violence Act were “clear and unambiguous”. The law required access to the court to be “as speedy, inexpensive and simple as is consistent with justice”.

“Its controlling words and phrases mean what they say. It is unnecessary to resort to synonyms for phrases like violence, which has a specific statutory definition, or physical or psychological abuse. Judicial overlays or refinements on a self-contained, plainly written statutory code do not assist.”

The Court of Appeal said that a single act could amount to domestic violence. That is what the act very plainly says, but this clear statement has all-too-often been disregarded by Family Court judges.

Justice Harrison said: “It is unlikely a court could rationally refuse to grant a protection order where the behaviour is such as to lead to reasonable fears for safety based on being subjected to a pattern of recent serious domestic violence, unless there are very strong indications to the contrary.”

What is crucial about the Court of Appeal’s decision is its statement that the pattern of behaviour should be looked at.

This is vital in domestic violence, as there is generally an ongoing sequence of verbal and physical abuse.

(That is why it is important that New Zealand now has a Family Violence Death Review Committee which goes back and reviews in detail every domestic violence homicide in this country. Doing that brings into stark relief how important it is to take early violence events seriously: if action was always taken after the first violence, women’s and children’s lives could be saved.)

The Court of Appeal criticised the Family Court judge’s approach of assessing each event separately and concluded that MN’s behaviour was “plainly abusive”.

Justice Harrison listed the irrelevant considerations taken into account by the Family Court judge and said that the Family Court must “focus on the effect of offending behaviour rather than speculate on its cause”.

The Court of Appeal held that the Family Court had set an unacceptably high threshold for behaviour to qualify as physical or psychological abuse. The Family Court judge had failed to address the mandatory consideration of whether MN’s behaviour formed a pattern against which SN needed protection.

The Court of Appeal granted SN’s appeal and ordered that a protection order be made to take immediate effect.

I and other anti-domestic violence campaigners have waited years for this judgment. What is needed now is for every Family Court judge to read it thoroughly and start applying the clear words of the Domestic Violence Act in the way they were intended to protect women and children.

Our country has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world and the law designed to protect women and children has been wrongly interpreted for two decades.

The Court of Appeal decision spells that out clearly and tells the Family Court how to get it right from now on.

Government searches for prison panacea

 

14 JUL 2017

The Government has been unapologetic for the record high prison population, but that confidence may be beginning to waver. Shane Cowlishaw reports.

Corrections Minister Louise Upston has sought advice about how to curb the surging prison muster, but what those options are remains a secret.

It comes as New Zealand’s prison population is forecast to keep rising, with the possibility a new prison facility may not be big enough to cope.

In February, the Department of Corrections responded to a request from Upston for an “initial set of options” that could reduce the population.

Newsroom requested a copy of the briefing under the Official Information Act but it was heavily redacted, including all details about the ideas presented to the Minister, on the grounds of protecting the “confidentiality of advice” of officials.

Several other documents on the prison population have also been withheld in full.

New Zealand’s prison populations sits at about 10,200 – the highest it has ever been.

Last year it was announced $1 billion would be spent building another 1800 prison beds, most of that going towards a new 1500-bed facility at Waikeria Prison in Waikato to open in 2020.

Now Corrections has confirmed that it has briefed the Minister on the possibility of boosting Waikeria’s capacity by another 500 beds to 2000. No detailed costings or plans have been provided to the Government and the matter has not gone before Cabinet.

Kelvin Davis, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson, praised Upston for wanting to address the issue but was shocked the suggestions of how to do so had been withheld.

“Why they would redact suggestions beggars belief because surely we have to have a discussion around the various options and just because Corrections gives advice doesn’t mean to say it’s Government policy.

“What they’re suggesting is not of national security significance, what they’re scared of is people saying they’re going soft on crime.”

While much information is withheld, the briefing does contain some insight into how the prison population has risen so high – a surge of 20 percent since 2014 – and the tough decisions looming.

“Long term, the Government will have a choice between the extent of additional investment in prison capacity, or policy and investment decisions across the justice sector that ‘pull back’ the demand curve,” the briefing says.

“To be effective given the size of forecast increases, these decisions would likely need to involve changes to existing settings.”

The rapid rise in prisoner numbers took the justice sector by surprise, with the briefing noting it was unexpected and had led to “substantial pressure” on prisoner accommodation and services.

The document reveals that some of the redacted options for reducing the population had been presented to Upston’s predecessors in 2015 and 2016, but whether they were acted upon is unknown.

Upston herself refused to reveal what options had been provided to her, stating a range of ways to reduce pressure on the justice sector pipeline were being considered with a report due in November.

Bail Act blowout

At the National Party conference last month, Upston appeared onstage with her justice sector counterparts Paula Bennett and Amy Adams.

The trio thrilled the crowd, with Upston and Bennett putting the record prison muster down to fantastic work from the police.

“Criticism of police is not justified because we have more people in jail than ever before,” Bennett said.

Corrections Minister Louise Upston has been briefed on a range of options on how to reduce the prison population, but won’t say what they are. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

But the Corrections briefing squarely points the finger at law changes that have seen the remand population balloon.

In 2013 the Government changed the Bail Act to make it tougher to get bail, particularly for violent and drug-related crimes.

The briefing reveals that in reality, the changes led to a need for 10 times the number of prison beds initially estimated.

When the policy was designed, justice officials believed a mere 50 extra beds would be needed each year, but actual demand was for an additional 500.

Restorative justice changes had also created demand 10 times the original estimate of 10 beds a year.

It would be “useful” to understand why these figures had been so wrong, the briefing says.

Immediate, targeted funding focused on remand offenders was recommended to reduce the pressure.

Legislative amendments to victims’ rights and sentencing laws plus a tougher stance on family violence has also likely played a part.

In 2011 the Government also passed the Criminal Procedures Act in an attempt to streamline the court system.

But the briefing described the changes as a failure, with no improvement in court disposal times.

Upston was unavailable for an interview, but in a written statement said the record prison population had been foreseen by her predecessor Simon Power in 2010.

While it was high, it was only a 23 percent rise since 2009 compared to a 40 percent increase that had occurred under the previous Labour Government.

She said the best way to reduce the prison population was to prevent people from entering the system and the Government’s social investment approach was designed to do this, through reducing risk factors such as alcohol and drug addiction, family violence, and mental illness.

“We know that the earlier we intervene, the greater the likelihood will be of preventing offending and victimisation.”

“We have a tolerance, indeed some could argue an enthusiasm, for a high incarceration rate.”

Davis described the Bail Act changes as short-sighted as the more people you locked up, the more people there were that would eventually come out worse off.

He accepted that previous governments had also neglected to address the issue of a rising prison rate, however.

“That’s a fair comment, Corrections is an area that governments have been too afraid to touch because they’ll be seen soft on crime, but the reality is we need to be smart on crime.”

Tracey McIntosh, professor of indigenous studies at Auckland University, said the rising prison rate meant the disproportionality in terms of Māori incarceration rates were intensified.

It was critical to look at policies to prevent people being sent to prison rather than those aimed at locking them up, such as addressing the drivers of crime and social harm, she said.

“We have a tolerance, indeed some could argue an enthusiasm, for a high incarceration rate.”

Deporting prisoners early

One option that has been considered by the Government is deporting non-New Zealand citizens before the end of their sentence.

In a separate briefing obtained by Newsroom, Corrections provided Upston with advice on the current policy after she requested details.

The Minister of Immigration holds the power to release offenders to be deported early, but they must be serving a sentence of less than two years or have served a substantial portion of their sentence.

Michael Woodhouse, current Immigration Minister, has only granted one early release since 2013 while the number of prisoners liable for deportation is just 227.

Corrections raised several problems with adopting earlier deportations, including that it was unlikely the offender would be subject to any oversight when returned to their country.

“Changes to deportation policy may therefore have diplomatic implications for New Zealand,” Corrections said in the advice for the Minister.

“New Zealand does not enter into prisoner exchange agreements with other countries in order to allow prisoners to serve out their sentence in their country of origin.”

The idea has shades of Australia’s controversial law change in 2015 that has seen scores of New Zealanders sent back to their birth country.

The development caused outrage, with offenders who had lived for most of their life in Australia separated from their families and many offending soon after arriving back in New Zealand with no support systems.

Upston declined to answer questions on the subject, stating it was an immigration matter.

Former police officer sentenced to home detention for snooping on 21 women

Former Police Officer Jeremy Malifa arrives at Auckland District Court for an earlier appearance.

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Former Police Officer Jeremy Malifa arrives at Auckland District Court for an earlier appearance.

An ex-police officer who admitted using a police data base to snoop on 21 women has been sentenced to 400 hours community work and six months community detention.

Jeremy Malifa, 34, was sentenced at the Auckland District Court on Tuesday after earlier pleading guilty to 21 charges of accessing police computer systems to retrieve personal information on 21 women.

He will also serve 12 months of supervision and was ordered to pay $200 to each victim.

In court on Tuesday, Judge Heemi Taumaunu called Malifa’s behaviour “predatory, calculated and manipulative”.

The offending took place between 2010 and 2016.

Malifa was sworn into the police force in 2008 but resigned at the end of 2015 as a result of his offences.

He used the police system to look up women he was attracted to and who he thought would be susceptible to his advances, Judge Taumaunu said.

He searched all of his victims multiple times, using details given to him as an officer and details of victims sourced outside of work.

Malifa used the police database to gain cellphone numbers, home addresses and personal information.

With multiple victims he went to their homes as an officer and would later send text messages.

He began sexual relationships with eight of the victims.

One victim, who he tried but failed to have a relationship with, was 13 years old at the time.

Some victims were met at crime scenes he attended as an officer, others were met on police training courses and outside of work.

He also used an alias.

The names of the complainants are suppressed.

Malifa and his wife had separated but Malifa continued to support her and their children, defence lawyer Graeme Newell said.

Malifa cried in the dock as the judge addressed his behaviour.

Judge Taumaunu said Malifa’s repetitive offending over six years was a gross breach of trust within the New Zealand police force and victims.

“Sentencing you today, it’s important to impose a sentence that holds you accountable for your offending.”

Judge Taumaunu began at a starting point of two years  and eight months imprisonment, which was lessened by Malifa’s guilty plea and personal factors.

He also noted Malifa was remorseful for his actions and suffered from mental health issues.

But Judge Taumaunu took the opportunity to warn other officers that a starting point of two years and eight months imprisonment would be held for any officer who grossly misused the police data base.

“This also sends a message to other police officers of general deterrence,” he said.

After the sentence was imposed, Auckland City Police District Commander Superintendent Karyn Malthus said the offending was “wholly distressing for the victims”.

“It has also undermined the efforts of the thousands of NZ Police officers who carry out their duties every day with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”

Malthus said police wanted to acknowledge the victims in this case. “We thank them for their willingness to assist our investigation, and we apologise to them on behalf of NZ Police.”

Malthus said that in November 2015, police received information that Malifa had approached a woman “via inappropriate means” during his time as a police officer, and an internal investigation was launched.

“Further information was obtained and a criminal investigation was subsequently launched that continued for many months.”

Malifa resigned from the police in December, 2015.

Malthus said police did not believe any other staff were involved or complicit in his offending.

“The use of the police database is strictly controlled and all police staff are aware that it is only to be used for the purposes of carrying out policing duties.”

There were systems in place to control and manage user access to sensitive information, she said.

“In the past the monitoring mechanisms have largely been manual and randomised.  Police now have a system capable of automatically monitoring, detecting and reporting unacceptable or anomalous user behaviours that would not be consistent with police Information security policies or police values.”

 – Stuff