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A man who was detained without charge has criticised the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and the wider New Zealand prison system.
Jeff, whose name has been changed, was allegedly a potential witness in a criminal pre-trial hearing last November. After Jeff refused to testify, Judge Alistair Garland ordered he be detained.
Under s 165 of the Act, a witness can be imprisoned for a period of seven days if they refuse to give testimony, without being arrested, charged, and convicted. This can be renewed for a further seven days at the discretion of the Court.
An initial appeal made to the High Court found that the decision of Judge Garland was lawful.
After spending 48 days in the remand wing of Christchurch Men’s Prison, the man spoke to Stuff and said he was worried about the cost of his detainment for the taxpayer, especially considering he thought that his detention was “coercive [rather] than punitive.”
Jeff’s time in prison provided him with an insight into the realities of prison life: “it’s very different when you experience it.”
His experiences also highlighted some perceived inefficiencies of the criminal justice system. He said, “I believe in justice. But so many of those guys are in there because why they are criminals is not addressed.”
Katie Bruce, Director of JustSpeak, said that New Zealand’s corrections policy needs to listen to the lived experiences of prisoners. “If we want to make positive changes then they are the people who know best what this experience is like and what support they need.”
In 2014, more than 2000 remand prisoners were held in custody awaiting trial for periods of three months or longer.