The law and order debate and the grade one tosser

Written By: - Date published: 7:43 am, May 22nd, 2018 - 36 comments
Categories: act, Andrew Little, crime, Deep stuff, democratic participation, labour, Left, national, newspapers, prisons - Tags: ,

david garrett act

I am really pleased that the Government has said no to the new mega prison planned for Waikeria. The prison would have been a retrograde step, continued New Zealand’s failure to address the causes of crime and sucked in huge amounts of resources that could be used to deal with poverty.

From Radio New Zealand:

Plans to build a new mega-prison at Waikeria have been scrapped, but the government has yet to decide what to do instead.

The Corrections Department is waiting for the government to report back on its proposal to build a 3000-bed prison in rural Waikato.

It would be the largest prison in the country.

The government has repeatedly delayed its response, but Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis confirmed on Sunday that the large-scale option had been taken off the table.

“We will not be building a mega prison,” he said in a statement.

However, he left the door open to a smaller expansion, saying a final decision on the proposal was still pending.

“We will take action, but it will be considered and not reactive… I will be making a decision, but I want to make the right one for all those affected.”

The problem the country is facing is that under current legal and policy settings the prison population is going up and the system is close to capacity.

A great deal of the problem is the change in bail laws passed in 2013 by National.

It caused the number of people on remand, that is people who had not been found guilty of anything, to increase from 1,800 to 3,000.

The latest report has the total prison muster at 10,394.

It has been clear for years that this problem was becoming more and more of an issue.  But apart from gleefully proposing more and more changes akin to double bunking the last Government’s proposals and decisions were rather minimal.

And Andrew Little, whose decision making in Justice has been extraordinarily good, has said that he wants that this government wants to reduce the prison population.  He has asked for advice on the bail laws and change is likely.  He has said:

We are going to have to have a look at this because what is happening and the consequences of that change in the bail laws is we’re getting way more people banged up in prison, and they haven’t even been convicted yet, they’re there on remand, than was intended when that bail law was first introduced.

It would be great for a political consensus to be reached on this most important issue.  But the chances are slim.

The approach is perfectly consistent with Labour’s policy of reducing the prison muster by 30% over 15 years.  But on the right Simon O’Connor has described the move as being ideological.

Law and order has been increasingly the attention of different media outlets in preparation for what will be an important public discussion.

There was this coverage by the outstanding David Fisher to provide a detailed analysis of the subject and comment from some major players.

He sought views from different people.

He received this from Garth McVicar:

McVicar rejects the notion the scientific research is correct and warns about seeking out the same expert advice relied on before the Sensible Sentencing Trust emerged.

As McVicar tells it – and this is in contradiction to the graphs, statistics and peer-reviewed research in Gluckman’s report – academics and scientists had led New Zealand into a crime-ridden society until the “evolution” of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

“How can Gluckman be right when all he’s doing is going back to prior 2001 or 2000? How can he be right?”

McVicar says – and Gluckman’s report says this is not true – longer sentences, tougher bail laws and making parole more difficult to obtain have led to the fall in our crime rate.

Gluckman’s report was simply the chief science adviser “running off his mouth without having any conclusive evidence to prove what he had to say”.

McVicar doesn’t accept the report and says the 149 inter-linked research references “don’t support what he’s saying”.

Apart from intellectuals uncritically changing everything that has been written about crime over the past few decades I suspect the prospects of agreement are remote.

Peter Gluckman may as well have been in a different dimension such was his take of the view.  He was reported in these terms:

Gluckman said the prisons report – as an example – gives the public information to make a decision. If we choose to continue to run our justice system the same way, more people will be locked up who will eventually be released, “brutalised” by prison and “over time we will escalate the crime rate”.

And as we do that, we need to recognise our society is not doing enough to stop people entering prison, or if they do go to prison, to shift the focus of their imprisonment to rehabilitation so they can join society in a positive way.

Our other option is to recognise many in prison have “lifetime diagnosable mental illness or substance-use disorder”, many are there “because of social circumstances which put them on the trajectory towards unfortunate and harmful outcomes for society”.

And, he says, there should be greater effort expended to stop people ending up in the justice system at all.

And Andrew Little gave this painful yet utterly realistic description of the current system:

If the purposes of having longer sentences and things like ‘three strikes’ is that it acts as a disincentive, clearly the evidence says it is not.”

Little said young men, like many who become regulars in the prison system, do not “stand around with criminal intent” and calculate how to commit a crime so as to get a lesser sentence, or to avoid a “strike”.

“They don’t do that. If they see an opportunity, or they are high as a kite or whatever, they go and offend.”

At the same time, many in prison suffer addiction, mental health and other issues which has been tied directly to criminal offending.

“Unless we start to deal with those issues, we are failing. We are failing members of the public who just become those guys’ next victims.

“It’s not the length of time a serious offender spends in prison. It’s what happens when they are there.

“More and more time isn’t going to fix them.” If the underlying issues aren’t addressed, “we haven’t made it any better for them”.

“We’ve just recycling them through the system.”

Fisher’s article attracted the attention of a particular person who has more than a nodding acquaintance with the criminal justice system, particularly the treatment of those who steal the identities of dead babies.

Fisher’s write up of this person‘s response is one of the most entertaining things you will read.

Some highlights:

Former Act MP and lawyer David Garrett sent a string of abusive text messages last night in support of McVicar and championing the “Three Strikes” law he designed and got through Parliament.

“The self-described ‘cow cocky’ from Hawke’s Bay” has had 100 times the influence you and your mates have ever had … and I know that burns like f***,” said Garrett.

In a later text, he said McVicar “frustrates the left hugely … because a self-described ‘cow cocky from Hawke’s Bay’ has been so hugely influential” …

“You are a grade one tosser,” Garrett told this reporter. “You know very well there is excellent evidence that 3S (Three Strikes) works superbly as a specific deterrent to the 9000-odd first strikers.”

But it appears that the evidence Garrett was relying on was not so pristine.

Garrett, who said this month he had provided legal advice to the trust for 15 years, then presented statistics apparently showing the law had a proven deterrent effect.

The statistics had been sourced by criminal defence lawyer Graeme Edgeler for a post on the Public Address blog and then analysed further on the statistics blog run by University of Auckland statistics Professor Thomas Lumley.

Although the posts initially formed the view Three Strikes could be statistically shown to have worked, Garrett appeared unaware both Edgeler and Lumley had since withdrawn their comments, having found they were based on bad data from the Ministry of Justice.

But wait there was more.

Garrett scanned a print out of the outdated blog post – the date of printing was shown as October 2015 – and emailed it saying he expected to “watch you go mysteriously silent – can’t be publishing anything that blows your own argument, eh?”

Garrett continued texting, peppering his communications with various personal insults.

After sending the print out of Lumley’s outdated blogpost, he wrote: “How to make a dickhead go quiet – send him some stats from someone he has already acknowledged as authoritative … instant silence … too funny.”

During the texts, Garrett said: “I am well aware this exchange is on the record.

But then the penny dropped after David Fisher pointed out to Garrett the problem with the data and the analysis:

Garrett reposting: “I stand corrected.”
He said he would seek fresh statistics from the Ministry of Justice.

However, he said “deterrence was only ever seen as a bonus” as the law was aimed at “incapacitation of thoroughly bad people so they can’t hurt the rest of us”.

“That in itself is good enough for me. Deterrence would be a bonus.”

This highlights a problem when debating with the right.  If they have some evidence, any evidence, that will support their prejudices they will wield this like a weapon.  And it does not matter how many reports run counter to their beliefs because they are all wrong.

Whereas our response on the left would be “wow new data, what does it mean and does it validate or challenge my current beliefs?”

At least Garrett had the decency to admit he was wrong about the data.

Although he still thinks the three strikes law is a good idea.

36 comments on “The law and order debate and the grade one tosser”

  1. cleangreen 1

    Mickey; – you are so very correct; – as national did this with impunity.

    National over the nine years always did this when they used MBIE to conger together their own “cherry picked” whitewashed studies to support their own ends.

    Just as they did in 2013/14 over whether to close or keep open the Gisborne rail line that they caused to become washed out after they took the rail line maintainence funding away from Gisborne to give to Auckland passenger rail.

    A leading Gisborne counillor claimed the government report was just “another whitewash”.

    This was yet another travesty of justice.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1305/S00019/east-coast-economic-study-wasteful-whitewash.htm

    “This highlights a problem when debating with the right. If they have some evidence, any evidence, that will support their prejudices they will wield this like a weapon. And it does not matter how many reports run counter to their beliefs because they are all wrong.”

    • Planet Earth 1.1

      wow cg, you are a very flexible fellow! From Waikeria Prison/3 strikes to the Gisborne rail line in three very short paragraphs. Keep up with the yoga!

  2. Criminology… such a huge field,… but we can garner a few clues from sites such as this…

    Historical background – It’s Time to Cut New Zealand’s Prison Population
    cuttheprisonpop.nz/historical-background/

    I remember a member of the Police saying that ” during the 1990’s building booms crime dropped , and guys were too busy hanging off building sites working to bother about committing crime”

    That stuck with me and to a point and that pithy observation had quite a bit of truth to it. Not the total answer , but a lot of wisdom.

    http://cuttheprisonpop.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/trickle-down-economics-.jpg

    Chris Trotter: Who will cry out that neoliberalism’s new … – Stuff.co.nz
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/…/chris-trotter-who-will-cry-out-that-neoliberalisms-new-clothes…

    • bwaghorn 2.1

      Yip anyone in government who does not see the need for jobs jobs jobs is to thick to be there

  3. Ross 3

    I suspect the tightening of bail laws were due to some high profile recipients of bail doing some rather nasty crimes. Australia went through the same process following some high profile cases there.

    http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-08/victoria-set-to-tighten-bail-justice-system-after-review/8505506

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/time-for-debate-on-tougher-bail-is-over/news-story/c6a48dc3c0bcd7c8f8a1d47caefdb30c

    Andrew Little needs to tread very carefully. Victims of course should be at the forefront of his thinking.

    • andrew murray 3.1

      @ Ross,
      That last sentence is a proposition that is often put, but since you have just presented it as an absolute…can you at least try and defend it.

      • Ross 3.1.1

        Andrew

        Do you not think that victims should be at the forefront of the Minister’s thoughts? Why did Australia and NZ introduce tougher bail laws? Public safety is my main priority and should be the Minister’s.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1

          Which is why it’s so important that the minister listens to fact-based arguments rather than ignorant racists whose witless and corrupt policies create more crime.

          • Ross 3.1.1.1.1

            OAB

            I presume your comment about racists doesnt refer to me.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Depends whether you’re making common cause with McVicar, Garret, Capill et al.

              • Ross

                Well I love my neighbour and judge not lest I be judged. But interestingly that doesnt make me a Christian. 🙂

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Sure, and if you support “tough on crime” policies, you’re making common cause with ignorant racists, and you all look the same to me.

        • andrew murray 3.1.1.2

          Quick answer Ross, no I don’t think that victims (past tense) should be at the forefront of the Minister’s thoughts on the impact that our current penal policy has on community safety and social order.

          Our penal system fits within a highly complex set of interacting political influences and would take more time and access to research than I can offer here. It might be helpful however to consider these two issues separately.

          It is interesting for example that the political elite can determine which actions may be deemed criminal and what sanctions are appropriate for those actions, as well as determining the larger social preconditions that often make criminal outcomes an inevitability. At the same time, it (the system) forgoes any direct responsibility for the outcomes of those determinations.
          Instead, it deliberately sets a social tone that directs the aim of victim retribution towards the perpetrators while it deftly sidesteps any responsibility for creating the social, legal and economic preconditions of crime.

          What about if every citizen of a crime, could demand compensation from the State for its failure to deliver on the safety promises of the social contract… much like an ACC system?
          Do you then think political elites would continue as they are or might they start taking some action to reduce those preconditions?

        • KJT 3.1.1.3

          If public safety is your main aim, then you would support the mix of policies which have dramatically reduced both crime, and prison populations, in Portugal, Holland, Iceland and Denmark.

          Sending silly teenagers, and angry young men, to “crime university” results in more criminals, and less “safety for the public”.

          “Tough on crime” advocates are ignoring evidence, and the societal support, that is proven to work.

          Having said that. Prison is a very effective deterrent for white collar crime. However most white collar crimes are legal in New Zealand.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2

      Yes, think of the victims of all the extra crime that results from letting ignorant racists and/or private prison companies write penal policy.

      If Little drives this point home then perhaps the ignorant racists will start having to explain why they push penal policies that create more crime. And whether they’ve been paid to do so. Has SERCO got a table at Cabinet Club, that sort of thing.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    Ignorant racists or something worse? After all, there’s money in it.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    We are going to have to have a look at this because what is happening and the consequences of that change in the bail laws is we’re getting way more people banged up in prison, and they haven’t even been convicted yet, they’re there on remand, than was intended when that bail law was first introduced.

    Having private prisons, that National brought back, that make more profit from having more people in them then it’s possible to postulate that it actually was indented.

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      Only 1 privately run prison in NZ currently – after Serco was kicked out Auckland remand prison- with 960 people. it doesnt seem to make any difference to the overall numbers of around 7000 who are sentenced.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Time line:
        2011 National brings back private prisons
        2013 National passes bill to increase prison numbers
        2016 National still looking to allow profiteers (including Serco) to profit from increased incarceration
        2017 Coalition government elected
        2018 Government announces that they’re not going to build super prison and a review of the justice system

        Looks like the new government hasn’t had time to make any difference yet.

        • dukeofurl 5.1.1.1

          The 2013 legislation, which was supported by labour was expected to increase numbers by around 50 !
          Labour supported the bail changes at the time, which were led by then-Justice Minister Judith Collins and reversed the burden of proof for people accused of serious crimes.
          That meant people accused of murder or Class A drug offences or repeat offenders in kidnapping, aggravated burglary and other serious cases had to show why they should be bailed, rather than the police showing why they should be locked up.

          Little said the stricter laws had been applied too broadly and had led to a far greater incarceration rate than predicted.
          The Ministry of Justice had advised in 2013 that 50 extra prison bed nights a year would be required as a result of the changes. Instead, 800 extra bed nights a year had been required.

          Sort of destroys your argument , Non ?

          https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12035056

          A new government has to pass new bail laws. Just wanting things to change doesnt make it so.
          Would be interesting to see the types of offences that are now included that

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1

            Sort of destroys your argument , Non ?

            No.

            National could still have passed the bill and ensured that it applied too broadly simply to boost profits for private corporations.

            Labour supporting the bill doesn’t change that. It does call into question Labour’s judgement though.

            • dukeofurl 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Nonsense.
              The advice- not from national- was that an extra 50.
              The national party doesnt issue directives to judges.
              I think they too were surprised by the extra numbers- which have meant more people in state prisons. The Wiri prison would be full anyway, because of its location and less Aucklanders sent to to regional prisons.

              Please put your thinking cap back on.

  6. Michelle 6

    Look as a victim of homicide myself I understand where Garth is coming from. And I have met many of the victims Garth and his colleagues from the Sensible Sentencing Trust tirelessly advocate for and I know they care. I have heard these victims stories and many are horrendous and I believe some of these people mostly murderers and rapist need to remain in prison and should never get out. But I don’t agree with everything he says. I especially don’t agree with us building a mega prison and I also told Garth I don’t agree with the 3 strikes law because it doesn’t work. Based on all the research done in America it doesn’t work and nor does the death penalty. We need to look at what America has done and do something similar they have managed to reduce prison rates and if they can do so can we.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      Copying the USA got us into this problem in the first place.

      We should do what works instead. That means importing policy from eg: The Netherlands and Norway.

      Edit: unfortunately, the National Party prefers rhetoric and crocodile tears: claiming to side with victims whilst pursuing social, economic and penal policies that create more crime.

    • ianmac 6.2

      We are very lax in NZ in our victim support. Lets improve the victim support but the high prison numbers is a different issue.
      About 10+ years ago Phil Goff went on a fact finding tour to find ways of sorting out our terrible record, but he went silent on the issue. Too tough politically I guess.

    • KJT 6.3

      Or we could copy Portugal, Iceland and Norway, who really have reduced both crime, and imprisonment rates.

      However that would mean raising taxes on the well off. So not going to happen.

  7. Tamati Tautuhi 7

    The whole Judicial & Penal System needs to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes, “doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results is the definition of insanity” ?

  8. Philg 8

    I think we should closely study the Injustice industry and policy in the USA and do the opposite. We cannot fail.

  9. NZJester 9

    National wile in government failed to keep adequate maintenance up on the current prisons and had been slowly increasing the population so they have reason to go ahead with privatizing them. Private prisons are a money drain on an area in both money and people. Those running them tend to kick back money to the politicians with donations and incentives to have them criminalize even the smallest of crimes to keep the population in the prisons rising and the profits growing. They have no incentive to rehabilitate prisoners as that would cut the chances they can get them back in again and make even more money from them. You just have to look at what private prisons have done in the US with its fastest-growing prison population. The US is number 2 in the world for Prisoners per 100,000 population a rate thought to be much higher than the estimate of Prisoners per 100,000 population in North Korea. A lot of people committing minor crimes have also been caught out by harsh 3 strike systems that land them with mandatory long sentences for nonviolent crimes or possession of small amounts of drugs for their personal use. Those caught with drugs should not be tossed in prisons but put into rehab.

  10. Antoine 10

    I’d be quite keen to see the rate of increase of the prison muster decreasing _before_ we stop building prisons.

    Otherwise we set ourselves up for trouble a couple of years down the track.

    A.

  11. patricia bremner 11

    I think Andrew Little will work at improving rehabilitation, and mentoring to snowball a turn around. He sure won’t give Serco any further contracts imo.

    • Antoine 11.1

      That would be great, but I am sure he would be the first to admit that these changes will take a while (years) to make an impact. In the meantime we need to have more beds than prisoners.

  12. Antoine 12

    What extra funding was there in the Budget for rehabilitation and crime prevention, including mental health and addiction services?

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