The government has released a draft of its seventh report under The United Nations Convention against Torture Convention (the Convention). The report is now available for public consultation from now until 17 June.
The Convention aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world. More than 160 countries have ratified the Convention which requires states to take effective measures to prevent and address all occurrences of torture and ill-treatment.
The Convention came into force on 26 June 1987 and all countries that have signed it are required to report periodically to the United Nations Committee against Torture (the Committee).
Issues before submission of seventh periodic report – and the government response
The Committee has requested information from New Zealand on (among other things) certain areas of concern such as violence against women, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, treatment of detainees, and the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
Family Violence (Article 2)
The draft report states (paragraph 5(34) “Our rates of gender-based violence are high.”
Measures taken in response
Between 2014 and 2017, a Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence was set up to develop a comprehensive response and range of measures to significantly improve responses to gender-based violence.
Workforce Capability Family Violence Risk Assessment and Management Frameworks were released in 2017.
In 2017, a political position of Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) was created.
In 2018, the Government announced a Joint Venture model at agency chief executive level to deliver an integrated, whole-of-government approach to reduce violence.
The Joint Venture developed a single package for budget 2019 to align and prioritise government resources.
The 2017/18 budget invested significantly to combat violence: An additional $76m over four years were invested in frontline social services working with families impacted by family violence. Sexual abuse and treatment services received an additional $7.5m over four years to deliver medical treatment, forensic services and referrals. This additional funding built on increased funding of $46m over four years provided in Budget 2016/17 for specialist services for victims and perpetrators.
The new Family Violence Act will fully enter into force in July 2019. It aims to prevent, identify and address family violence.
Its key features are to provide a more integrated response to family violence, improve accessibility and effectiveness of protection and Police safety orders and to improve the justice response including the creation of three new criminal offences and more accurate recording of family violence.
In 2018, Parliament also passed legislation allowing victims of family violence to take leave from their employment, separate from sick leave or annual leave, to help them out of violent situations. This is a world first.
The rights of refugees and asylum seekers (Article 3)
The Committee asked for information on the measures that have been taken to revise national legislation on refugees and asylum seekers to fulfil all obligations under article 3 of the Convention.
In 2018, the government increased the annual refugee quota to 1,500 effective 2020 (from 750 originally).
Under the Immigration Act 2009, all asylum applications are first considered under the Refugee Convention, then the Convention against Torture and, if still unsuccessful, the ICCPR.
In relation to Article 3 of the Convention, under s164 of the Immigration Act, no person claiming refugee or protected person status may be deported unless Article 33.2 of the Refugee Convention applies. A person recognised as being protected cannot be deported where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of torture or cruel treatment.
Protection of vulnerable persons and victims
Approved refugees have the same access to government-funded benefits and other New Zealand residents. Asylum seekers can apply for welfare support (Emergency Benefit and Temporary Additional Support).
Effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System and prisons (Article 10 -11)
The Committee has asked for up-to-date information on educational programmes that have been developed by the State party to ensure that all law enforcement officials, prison staff and border guards are fully aware of the provisions of the Convention.
A module on the Convention is included in the initial training of prison officers and all new relevant staff participate in an e-learning module “Our Way and Human Rights.”
Immigration officers receive training on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, intercultural awareness, questioning, search, arrest, detention and use of force.
Oranga Tamariki-Ministry for Children facilities
Induction training for Oranga Tamariki staff working in secure residences emphasises their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, respect for dignity and consequences of inappropriate behaviour.
Relevant staff in residences receive training on ‘Management of Actual or Potential Aggression’ (MAPA) including annual refreshers. MAPA trains staff to manage young people presenting challenging behaviour and is internationally accredited through the Crisis Prevention Institute.
New training, co-designed with Police, will replace MAPA.
Police officers receive training as recruits and throughout their career. They must maintain up to date knowledge of legislation, including Bill of Rights Act, Human Rights Act and Crimes of Torture Act. Failure to meet obligations under these Acts may result in misconduct proceedings and, in case of torture, criminal prosecution.
Obligations to prisoners are reinforced through Custodial Management Health Risk awareness protocols and Custodial Management Suicide awareness training all officers must complete.
Interrogation and custody rules (Article 11)
The Committee asked for information on any interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices or on any arrangements for custody. This included any measures taken to reduce prison overcrowding, Māori in the prison system, alternatives to prison, conditions of detention at police stations and excessive resort to strip searches in prison.
Reform of the criminal justice system – ‘Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata’
In 2018, the Government commenced a comprehensive and ambitious programme of reforming the criminal justice system. It looks at addressing the disproportionate representation of Māori and reducing the prison population. The goal is to reduce the prison population by 30% in the next 15 years.
Hāpaitia aims at more effective responses to crime, reducing harm, and keeping people safe.
The Government is collaborating with Māori and communities to develop tailored solutions. To enhance input from Māori across all portfolios, the Government established, in 2018, a new agency for Māori/Crown relations - Te Arawhiti (the bridge). The Government is investing in improving social outcomes, for example addressing socioeconomic disadvantages experienced by children which will have long-term benefits for Māori children.
To reduce the prison population
Additional rehabilitation and re-integration programmes in prisons and the community are now available including intensive alcohol (AOD) and other drug treatment programmes based on Māori principles, a transition programme for people who have completed AOD, additional beds in AOD treatment facilities, ‘Whare’, culturally responsive programme supporting, in prison and community, men under 25 convicted of offences like theft, burglary and robbery and ‘Kia Rite’, an information and skills training programme for women.
In 2017/18, the Government introduced the High Impact Innovation Programme, a cross-agency operational response to the rising prison population which has generated a prison bed saving of at least 64,000 days.
In 2018, the Government provided $57.6m for additional supported accommodation for people on bail and parole.
Māori in the prison system
Steps taken to implement recommendations from the 2017 report Tū mai te Rangi! The Report on the Crown and Disproportionate Reoffending Rates, include revising the terms of reference of the ‘Māori Leadership Board (MLB) so that it has a greater influence over decision making, the MLB and the Department of Corrections working in consultation with Māori on a new Māori strategy, and resourcing for Māori-specific programmes and staff.
Alternatives to imprisonment
Five community sentences are available as non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment. Most people are managed in the community. As at 31 December 2018, 30,158 were managed by Corrections in the community and 9,785 people were managed in prison
Health care in prison
Following the development of a strategy in 2017 to improve mental health service for prisoners Corrections has invested $25m to pilot new services and supports for those vulnerable to self-harm.
Strip searching in prison
Parliament is considering amending legislation which would reduce the need for strip-searching by allowing, subject to privacy protections, imaging technology and introducing a new individualised approach for at-risk prisoners.
Conditions of detention in Police cells
Over the last 10 years, there were several phases of a national cell remediation programme which has addressed the state of repair, design issues and particularly, suicide prevention measures in Police cells.
Following an Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation into a suicide in 2015, the Government is conducting a significant investment programme across all court cell facilities. All 481 cells were checked against a standard agreed with Police which includes removing all possible ligature points and adding privacy screens. CCTV will be installed in every cell while complying with the Privacy Commissioner’s guidelines. It is expected that the upgrade work will be completed in 2019.
Minors in detention