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  • Warning system saves court time

    Crime rates have dropped to their lowest level for 24 years - but police are not solving any more of their cases. Instead, they say they are focusing on preventing major crimes, rather than resolving minor ones.
    The drop in crime figures across the board come at the same time as courts statistics show a 14 per cent fall in new cases entering the justice system's busiest jurisdiction - District Court cases dealt with by judges sitting alone. The drop is primarily a result of the police pre-charge warning scheme, which some lawyers have dubbed "tag and release".

    The warnings divert lower-end offences such as liquor-ban breaches and disorder away from the court system. Police arrest the offenders, and put a warning on their records, but they are not charged. Law Society criminal law committee chairman Jonathan Krebs said the result did not mean that crime had gone down, but simply that lower-end offenders were getting off in the interest of cutting costs. "I don't think it's a good thing," Mr Krebs said. "It's the opposite of a zero-tolerance policy."
    According to police statistics for 2012, recorded crime fell nationally by 7.4 per cent.

    But homicides, sexual assaults and drug offences were all up nationally, and half the 12 police districts recorded worse crime resolution rates in 2012 than they had 2011. Wellington District commander Superintendent Mike Rusbatch said the resolution rate needed to be kept within the context of the crime-prevention strategy. "One of the things we have been trying to do is to put more effort into prevention and more support around victims, as opposed to necessarily the resolution rates, per se.

    "So, yes, we are trying to resolve all crime that occurs, but what we're actually trying to do is, our first priority is to prevent the crime happening in the first place."There's crimes that we'll put enormous effort into: if we go back to our homicides, all our homicides we solved [last year], and a lot of effort goes there.

    "Some other lower-level crimes, clearly they're not such a high priority and we're choosing to take some of that effort and put it in place to prevent crime." The crime-prevention model has seen an increased visible presence of police as they patrol in greater numbers, which has contributed to the lower crime statistics, police say. Acting Commissioner Viv Rickard said there were 30,000 fewer victims last year because of crimes being prevented, which was a better result than resolving crimes once they had occurred.

    "Our strategy is very clear: we are about preventing crime. And we're also seeing, when people commit crime, our resolution rate is 47 per cent. Let me tell you, I've interacted with a lot of jurisdictions around the world, that's a world-class resolution rate. It's dropped about 0.3 per cent, and that's negligible. So I'm happy with that resolution rate, I'm more focused on having less victims."

    More than 45,000 people were arrested for minor offences such as drinking or fighting but given a warning rather than charged under a new system to cut the number of cases clogging courtrooms.
    New figures show that 12 per cent of all arrests in the 2011/12 year were not prosecuted, according to an evaluation report of pre-charge warnings obtained under the Official Information Act.
    The decision to issue a formal warning is at the discretion of senior police officers for anyone arrested for a crime with a penalty of no more than six months in prison, except in the case of family violence or methamphetamine.
    The programme was implemented in September 2010 on the back of several Law Commission reports and calls from the judiciary to develop other ways to hold people to account for less serious offending without having to bring them before the courts. Since then, 45,836 warnings have been issued.

    More than half of the warnings were for disorderly behaviour and breach of liquor bans, shoplifting, fighting and cannabis possession.Police say the warnings have reduced the "unsustainable" pressure on the log-jammed court system and freed officers for more frontline work, instead of spending time preparing prosecution files for low-level offences.

    Credit- NZ Herald
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Sir Richard's Avatar
      Sir Richard -
      We all know about the Wairapa Police Official who was promoted after an exemplary solve rate, only to then find he had been concealing unsolved crime files behind the cabinets. The reality is crime figures are down in part because it is harder to report crime. Most Police precincts now close before 5 pm and victims of smaller crimes simply give up trying to report. If Police stopped answering the phones, crime would likely go down to zero.
    1. yellowfattybeans's Avatar
      yellowfattybeans -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sir Richard View Post
      We all know about the Wairapa Police Official who was promoted after an exemplary solve rate, only to then find he had been concealing unsolved crime files behind the cabinets. The reality is crime figures are down in part because it is harder to report crime. Most Police precincts now close before 5 pm and victims of smaller crimes simply give up trying to report. If Police stopped answering the phones, crime would likely go down to zero.
      That is why they say REPORTED crime is down, they aren't actually claming that crime is down. Subtle but big difference. YOu are quite right - stop answering the phone and we now have no crime. I also am very suspicious about the reasons for the drop in reported crime. Next year will be interesting as there seem to be an awful lot of murders, and it is almost impossible to "cook the books" in relation to murder. IMO murder is the top of the pyramid, more murders must mean more crime (whether reported or not). The drop in proscutions will also mean more warnings by cops on the street, many of which will never be recorded formally. The whole situation is a worry really.
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