Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Supplementary Order Paper - Blocks Access to Justice

It is lamentable but perhaps understandable that  when New Zealand is facing mass migration to Australia, growing inequality and some 270,000 children living in poverty that the Minister of Corrections should be involving herself in a smokescreen  of being seen to be hard on prison inmates over smoking, when there are demonstrably more pressing issues that need the Government's urgent attention.

The newly minted Supplementary Order Paper (12 February 2013, Corrections Amendment Bill) presented to the House of Representatives by Minister Tolley which will have the effect of blocking recourse to Courts in relation to the smoking ban in prisons is  offensive to human rights norms and amounts to bullying by a Government obviously embarrassed by its recent loss in the High Court.

Under international law as reflected in our Corrections Act, prison sentences must not be administered more restrictively than is reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law and the safety of the public, prison staff and the inmates. The Court correctly found that the Government's blanket ban on smoking did not meet the aims of the Corrections Act, which is to ensure that prison sentences are administered in a safe, secure, humane and effective manner. Neither was it shown that the ban was reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law or the safety of the public, corrections staff of other prisoners. 

It is ironic that many inmates are serving sentences because they "took the law into their own hands", rather than turning to the Courts to seek relief. Now when inmates do just that and legitimately challenge the Government on its breaches of their fundamental rights, the Government shows a high handed disregard for its obligations and has no hesitation in blocking access to justice.

"“Status of certain rules and regulations relating to
smoking in prisons
179AA Status of certain rules and regulations relating to
smoking in prisons
“(1) On and from 12 February 2013, the following rules and regulations
must be treated as if they were made after Part 3 of
the Corrections Amendment Act 2011 came into force:
“(a) any rule made before 12 February 2013 by a prison
manager under section 33 that forbids prisoners to
smoke tobacco or any other substance, or forbids prisoners
to possess tobacco or any tobacco-related item;
“(b) regulations 4 and 6 of the Corrections Amendment
Regulations 2012.
“(2) On and from 12 February 2013, no proceedings may be
brought against the Crown questioning the validity of any
rules or regulations referred to in subsection (1).
“(3) Nothing in this section affects proceedings commenced before
12 February 2013 to the extent that any relief sought or
granted in those proceedings relates only to the period before
12 February 2013.”

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