Skip to Content »

Easy vote Justice savings: hint No 1 – no lawyers for parole applicants

  • May 3rd, 2010

The Minister of Justice has lots of low-hanging fruit in his sector, if he chooses to hunt for chances to end pointless state spending. Justice Clifford has just polished for him a small but juicy plum – deciding that prisoners are entitled to legal aid for their parole hearings.

In 2007, in its dying days, Labour changed the Parole Act to say that parole was a privilege, not a right. The change, to section 28 reads:

" In deciding whether or not to release an offender on parole, the Board must bear in mind that the offender has no entitlement to be released on parole and, in particular, that neither the offender's eligibility for release on parole nor anything else in this Act or any other enactment confers such an entitlement.

I regarded that as a small personal victory, having pushed fruitlessly for such a statement as an MP, and then having ensured that it was one of Sensible Sentencing's objectives.

But the justice insiders still had their hands on the pen, and they made sure the change was cosmetic only. They changed nothing else in the Act to give that declaration meaning. It is therefore an orphan curiousity in the Act, a cynical response to growing public awareness of the hypocrisy in justice insider rhetoric about parole.

There is no evidence that parole achieves any of its claimed objectives, other than to maintain the deceit in our courts, as judges hand down sentences the justice anointed know will mean little. The real sentence is not decided in open court. It is decided by the well meaning wallies on Parole Board panels.

Now the Hon Simon Power has an opportunity to give the provision meaning, and nip a new legal industry in the bud, by explicitly banning legal aid for lawyers instructed by criminals to get their right to release (oops – privilege).

Justice Clifford cited the new right to legal aid for lawyers representing victims as support for the view that criminals should also get it.

There is a clear distinction. The victims are usually there trying to ensure that the court's decision is upheld and that justice gained is not denied by the administrative granting of privilege to overturn court ordered sentence. They face the weight of the justice anointeds' delight in showing their "compassion", knowing the price will rarely visit them in their leafy suburbs and secure apartment blocks.

The criminal need only show he's not unmistakeably dangerous to get the privilege. The system starts on his side because letting him out will free up space. Hard to see that justice demands that the rest of us pay for lawyers to argue for a privilege  under a system pre-loaded to give it out.

Anxiety about inequality is a reason to support lawyer involvement in cases. But not necessarily routinely, and certainly not on the state payroll. If that is your concern there are myriad more deserving areas for lawyer involvement. For example, people fighting relegation on hospital waiting lists are far more likely to have compelling cases and clean hands. But even there I suspect the net costs/benefit from lawyerising the process would be negative. There is no case at all for requiring the state to pay.

So roll back smartly this week's extension of legal aid for prisoners.


  • Harry Young
  • May 4th, 2010
  • 9:58 am

I literally feel sick when I see the way the legal system operates. Why not just scrap parole and solve this problem at a stroke?
Parole doesn't work. All it does is let criminals out sooner, to brutalise other innocent people.
Prison is to punish on behalf of the victim and society, to incapacitate to protect society and to reform last and least.
Reform hardly ever works, so the first two need to take priority.
Who runs the legal system in this counrtry? Liberal do-gooders who's approach has failed, or the government? National talked big, now it is time to act.
Stephen, you have pulled me up before for saying that the judiciary is corrupt, but in my eyes it IS corrupt. It acts in the interest of the system and those who work in it, instead of for the public. It operates what maintenance men call "job build" – when they carry out or cause unnecessary work, so they can do that job too and make more bonus or overtime. Judges know damn well that early release means more victims.
My assertion has to be true. Judges like Clifford can not be stupid enough to think that they are acting to uphold justice!


"Justice Clifford cited the new right to legal aid for lawyers representing victims as support for the view that criminals should also get it."
This wasn't some novel extension of the law by some activist judge:
Section 7 of the Legal Services Act, as amended with effect from February this year now states, in part:
Legal aid may be granted in respect of the following civil matters:

(e) in any case where the Agency considers that the case is one that requires legal representation (having regard to the nature of the proceedings and to the applicant's personal interest) and considers that the applicant would suffer substantial hardship if aid were not granted, proceedings in—

(v) any administrative tribunal or judicial authority (not being a tribunal or an authority in respect of any decision from which an appeal lies to any of the bodies referred to in any of paragraphs (f) to (j)):

(1A) To avoid any doubt, subsection (1)(e)(v) applies, without limitation, to the following proceedings:

(b) a hearing of the New Zealand Parole Board (other than one in a proceeding specified in section 6(c)(i)) that concerns an offender and is a hearing at which a victim may appear as of right or with the Board's leave.
[subs (1A) is the new bit)
It is abundantly clear that legal aid now may be granted to prisoners for ordinary parole hearings. If the National Government didn't support this, they should have done a much better job of drafting their amendment last year.


I agree

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>