The Waitangi Tribunal has started the WAI 30-60 Justice Inquiry, looking at the New Zealand justice system in its entirety.
The landmark inquiry includes claims, prison programmes and the treatment of prisoners, police conduct, courts, Oranga Tamariki and inequities in youth justice.
“When you look at the position of Māori right now, in terms of the statistics everywhere, Māori are disproportionately over-represented everywhere," Te Mata Law principal David Stone says.
“As to why this hearing is important is because this gives us the opportunities to address the underlying issues as to why Māori are filling our prisons and so on.”
Claims in the inquiry start “from the very beginning”, and include police conduct and inherent police bias, to name a few.
“We know that all things being equal if you’ve got a Māori and non-Māori standing there, that the Māori guy is more likely going to be in prison that the non-Māori.
“We look at the court systems alienating our Māori people, how Māori don’t get access to justice like legal representation. We look at the attitude of the judges themselves and how they deal with Māori.”
It’s been challenging for Stone to hear some of the claims.
“I received instructions yesterday from a cousin of mine who was put inside, physically assaulted pretty badly, mutilated, and all sorts of really terrible stuff. It is challenging; it is hard. But that’s how it is.”