Minority groups have very different views of the criminal justice system, but the Justice Ministry won't say if that is a sign of a sector plagued by systemic bias.
The Social Wellbeing and Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System report, published today, shows that most people's experiences with the criminal justice system are positive, and there are high levels of trust in police and victim support groups.
But Māori, Pasifika and bisexual people have more negative views about the police and justice system than NZ Europeans.
The report draws from the 2019 Crime and Victims Survey 2019, which interviewed 8000 people about their experiences and perceptions of crime.
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"People of New Zealand European ethnicity tend to report higher levels of social wellbeing than members of other ethnic groups, especially in terms of trust in other people," the reports says.
"Māori, Chinese and Pacific adults are all less likely to feel that their values align with the criminal justice system than other adults. These findings support calls for the criminal justice system to better reflect the diverse values and needs of New Zealanders."
Findings of the report include:
• Pacific peoples and Indians tend to worry more about being the victim of a crime than other New Zealanders.
• Māori and Pacific people are more likely to feel as if they're treated unfairly by police.
• Bisexual adults (28 per cent) and Māori (39 per cent) are less likely to be confident in the criminal justice system than New Zealanders overall (53 per cent).
• One quarter of those who had contact with the criminal justice system said they
had a very positive experience, and a further 43 per cent said they had a positive experience.
Asked about the different views of minority groups, Justice Ministry deputy secretary Tim Hampton said the system was built on British foundations - but New Zealand's population was more diverse.
"We do need to modernise the way the justice system works to better align with the worldviews of the New Zealand public - whether that be Māori, Chinese, Polynesian, Pākehā."
Police Minister Stuart Nash has rejected claims of systemic racism in police, though police have active programmes to counter unconscious bias and to diversify the force.
Justice Minister Andrew Little, however, told the United Nations last year that New Zealand suffered from "entrenched structural racism and poorer outcomes for Māori".
Asked if the report showed systemic bias or racism, Hampton said: "We need to do better at considering the individuals that come before the criminal justice system, who they are and how they got here, rather than looking at the person and what they've done."
That meant judges had to take into account everything that led to a person's crime, including their cultural and socio-economic background, and what support they have to get their lives back on track.
"It happens now in pockets. What we have to do is systematise it more."
Hampton said the report showed strong support for reducing reoffending, as opposed to a more punitive approach.
A number of critical reports about the justice sector have landed on Little's desk this term, and he has committed to "doing justice differently".
"The old ways have failed us. They have resulted in too little rehabilitation and therefore more crime, while not doing enough to support victims," he said in December last year.
"The Government is open to reaching across the aisle on tackling our failed criminal justice system and building a new consensus on how we approach this issue."