Ask yourself this: what good can possibly come from Andrew Little's seeming fixation with loosening bail conditions, and generally looking to have fewer people in jail?
The Justice Minister's answer, of course, is we have less reoffending, fewer criminals and that leads to fewer jails and less expense. In theory, nothing wrong with it. But bail? What's his fixation on bail? A person is arrested and charged, bail is applied for, police oppose it and a judge makes a call. At this point, what are the risks?
The risks are while out on bail, the person commits another crime, scarpers, or both. So ask yourself, how do we mitigate that risk? The answer: don't grant bail. If you don't grant bail, the risk of trouble is gone. Does it mean more people behind bars? Yes. Does that put pressure on the system? Yes. But what would you rather have, the cost of safety in the community slightly higher, or some bloke out there saving us money, but with the possibility that another victim is about to have their life irrevocably changed?
Of course part of the equation is based on the time-honoured tradition of innocent until proven guilty. So a charge is not a conviction, which is why bail is so problematic. Which is where many of us would argue common sense comes in. Do police spend a lot of time going round charging innocent people? No they do not. So most of us assume that although a charge is but one part of the equation, the conviction is but only a matter of time. And given that, depending on the charge and the crime of course, we are better off making sure, rather than throwing caution to the wind and granting bail.
Now, in Andrew Little's utopia, the system would be up-ended. Prisoners would be reformed, trained and released into the community as productive, remorseful individuals looking to make amends. We'd all like that. But what Little is advocating has been tried and it hasn't worked. And as a result of it not working, the community has demanded, and by and large got, tougher sentences and a more robust judicial process. And as a result, crime is down.
What does work, is when people are in jail, they don't harm others. Yes it is, in part, short term. Because they all get out eventually. But Little needs two parts to his quest: letting people out earlier is easy, granting bail more often is easy. Mitigating the risk to the rest of us in doing that is the part he doesn't have an answer for. And until he does, I'll take what we've got, any day.