Simon Bridges dismisses Government justice summit as a 'talk fest' - says it will lead to a 'softening' of laws

Source: 1News

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Criminal Justice Summit due to begin today is simply a 'talk fest' that will likely lead to a "softening" of bail laws.

Justice Minister Andrew Little yesterday told TVNZ 1's Q+A programme that New Zealand's prison system is not successfully reintegrating people into society.

"Sixty per cent of those in prison will re-offend within two years of being released," Mr Little said.

"We've had thirty years of the auction of more penalties, more crime, more people in prison but it's not working, it’s not making us safe.

"It is not right that we have had this 30 per cent increase in our prison population in just the last five years - that's not right.

"That tells you there is something wrong. It’s not right that we have doubled those remanded in custody just in the last five years."

Mr Bridges, speaking this morning on TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, said it sounded like "Andrew Little knows what he wants to achieve out of it" and dismissed it as a "talk fest".

"He doesn't want to build more prison beds so he has to cut the prison population by a third," Mr Bridges said.

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"If I thought they were grappling with really hard issues to reduce actual offending, rather than just those prison numbers, and it was rehabilitation, reintegration, I'd go along with it.

"But it seems to me it's pretty clear whats going to come out - and that's softening up the bail laws, the sentencing laws and the parole laws.

"They are serious criminals who should be in jail rather than out on the streets - I think it will be more victims."

Mr Little, when asked by Q+A's Corin Dann about Māori representing more than 50 per cent of the prison population and whether the system is racist, said "I don't think you can rule out that".

"That is a real possibility that that is a cause of a massive over representation of Māori in our prison system."

New Zealand's prison population as of March 31 this year, including pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners, was 10,645, according to Ministry of Justice figures.

It was 8609 five years ago.