It's unlikely Andrew Little put much thought into who would lead a wide-ranging review of the criminal justice system.

Not because the Justice Minister made a flippant choice but because Chester Borrows was the obvious one.

The advisory group Borrows leads will bring back ideas for reforming the justice system and reversing New Zealand's climbing prison population and troubling re-offending rate.

It has a wide scope but it's no secret which way Little wants it to go.


Read more: Former National MP Chester Borrows to head justice reform group

The group will come up with what proponents call a smart on crime approach.

One which shuns popular tough on crime policies in favour of the finding new ways to work with offenders and the causes of crime.

Borrows has been vocal in his opposition to flagship tough on crime policies, such as three-strikes, longer sentences, stricter bail rules, and in that sense his and Little's stars align.

It does mean preconceived ideas Little has won't be challenged too much and there won't be many surprises for him, but fair enough, he needs to work with someone on a similar page.

Borrows is a former police officer, turned lawyer, turned courts and associate justice minister – and let's not forget defendant in a trial (not guilty).

That's a pretty solid background to take into a criminal justice review.

What Borrows gives Little is support from someone who can articulate the smart on crime philosophy with some authority and who is respected across the board.


It's a dream job for Borrows who wanted work with the justice sector after he retired as Whanganui's MP last year.

And it also won't hinder Little's project that Borrows is conservative on some issues by comparison and most recently wore a blue rosette.

The tough on crime argument is not going away in a hurry and the force with which is reared it's head when Little announced three strikes was gone before a sharp U-turn which kicked it to this review showed that.

Justice reform is tough.

Appointing Borrows was the easy part.