Nga Kete Chief Executive Officer Tracey Wright-Tawha says the agency is aiming to steer whanau away from entering a criminal conviction pathway with the establishment of Iwi Community Panels.
“We are aiming to provide an alternative resolution platform where offenders need to face their community to make things right, and agree to a level of reparation.”
Note: People who are referred to the ICP are referred to as participants.
Police can refer a participant to the ICP if they are aged 17 years or over, the offence carries six months’ imprisonment or less (and is not an offence related to family violence or methamphetamine use) and the participant admits guilt. ICPs aim to target offences that can be resolved without charge and prosecution and where a pre-charge warning is not considered a sufficient response.
The participant will come before a panel made up of trained volunteers, and an independent observer takes notes and minutes the process. Nga Kete’s newly appointed ICP coordinator Mana Wright will oversee facilitation of ICP panels, keep all parties informed, and follow reparation through to completion.
In addition, Mana will assist by linking participants to Whanau Ora navigational approaches so goal setting can take place and pathway plans created. This can assist the individual in transformational change moving towards improved wellbeing and independence i.e. employment, training and health.
The process involves a meeting between panel members, the participant and whanau to discuss the offence committed. If there is a victim, they are also given the opportunity to attend.
The panels take a problem-solving approach, decide the level of reparation, i.e. community work, fine etc, and makes recommendations set to address factors that contribute to offending, and redress the harm caused by the offending.
The panels have been a success in other parts of the country. A 2012 Police evaluation of the Christchurch Community Justice Panel found that it was an effective alternative to the criminal justice system, with indications that reoffending was reduced and that restitution orders were almost always followed.
Police Inspector Damion Rangitutia, Maori Responsiveness Manager – Southern District, acknowledges whilst there is still a way to go in the co-design, development and implementation stages of this project, police are working closely with Nga Kete to ensure the expectations from all stake holders involved are managed accordingly.
“I am excited about the opportunity this initiative presents given the positive outcomes experienced by similar panels over the country.”