Te Pae Oranga is the new name for Iwi Community Panels, which were launched in 2010 to reduce the load on the court system and prevent minor offending leading to serious crime and imprisonment. Te Pae Oranga is a lawful alternative to prosecution for some low-level offending, run by the Police. Police can refer people to local panels of community members rather than to the courts. These panels seek to make offenders accountable and address the reasons they offended.
“With Te Pae Oranga, we focus on putting right the harm done to the victim and supporting participants to change their behaviour, rather than punishing them,” says Michael McLean, Police National Manager, Māori, Pacific and Ethnic Services. “It’s having a positive impact on our communities and the lives of both offenders and victims.”
Police work with Māori community organisations to deliver Te Pae Oranga in Auckland City, Waitematā, South Auckland, Hamilton, Whakatāne, Rotorua, Gisborne, Hastings, Lower Hutt, Nelson, Christchurch and Invercargill.
Te Pae Oranga involves a partnership between iwi, community organisations and the justice sector and:
- Recognises the importance of iwi involvement in dealing with crime, and incorporates Māori justice practices and philosophies into the response to crime;
- Signifies resolution and facilitation, and the importance of supporting the wellbeing of the participant (the offender), the victim and any whānau/other support people who attend; and
- Is based on evidence that a community-based response to low-level offending can reduce reoffending, by promoting behaviour change and avoiding the progression of offenders into the criminal justice system.
While Te Pae Oranga follows Māori cultural practice and protocol, it is available to participants of any ethnicity.
“Te Pae Oranga panels are made up of community people who work together to ensure that low-level offenders are held accountable,” says Mr McLean. “The panels focus on upskilling participants, getting them into long-term employment, and looking at ways to change their mind-sets and re-engage them back into communities.”
Te Pae Oranga is open to participants if they’re aged 17 years and over; have committed a low-level offence; and admit responsibility for that offence. The most common offences referred to Te Pae Oranga are disorder, shoplifting, wilful damage and careless driving.
“When Police refer someone to Te Pae Oranga, Police are using their discretion under common law not to prosecute, in a similar way to deciding to issue a warning,” says Mr McLean.
“To make a referral, Police must establish there is evidential sufficiency to charge, and consider whether or not it’s in the public interest to prosecute. Police must consider the person’s prior offending, current offending circumstances and victim opinions. These are all laid out in the Solicitor-General’s guidelines.”
Full referral criteria:
- 17 years and over,
- All ethnicities,
- Only one offence involved, penalty is six months' imprisonment or less, but not: family violence or meth related offending, driving charge with mandatory disqualification, firearm charge, second-hand dealer offences,
- Must not be on active charges with a penalty of more than six months' imprisonment,
- Admits responsibility,
- Agrees to take part.
Police often use referrals to Te Pae Oranga for:
- Repeat offenders for low-level offences, where offending patterns would benefit from addressing underlying causes of offending behaviours (for example, disengagement from education, drug and alcohol misuse), or
- First or second time offenders for low-level offences, where there’s a suggestion that factors underlying the offending behaviour need to be addressed.
If referred, the participant (the offender) can choose to attend Te Pae Oranga or be processed through the courts. They can:
- Tell their story;
- Bring whānau/other support people (not lawyers) with them;
- Put things right by completing agreed actions to make up for the harm done;
- Be connected with the services and support they need to address the underlying causes of offending.
Police will contact the victim, if there is one, and prepare a victim impact statement (or Victim Support will do this). Police will ask the victim if they consent to be contacted by a Te Pae Oranga provider. Panels welcome victims to be part of the process and:
- Attend Te Pae Oranga meetings and have their say on how the crime has affected them;
- Bring whānau/other support people with them;
- Explore how the participant can make up for the harm caused.
A victim doesn’t decide whether or not an offender is referred to Te Pae Oranga.
How it works
The Te Pae Oranga process includes a huinga o mua (pre-panel meeting), hui matua (panel meeting) and huinga o muri (follow up).
Huinga o mua
The purpose of the huinga o mua is to prepare everyone for the hui matua. It involves a face-to-face meeting between the participant and the kaikawe kōrero (facilitator). If there’s a victim, the kaikawe kōrero also meets separately with them.
The kaikawe korero:
- Discusses the offence, the impact of the offence on the victim and what the needs of the participant are;
- Completes a risk assessment, decides whether to proceed to the hui matua, and briefs the māngai o te hāpori (panel members);
- If the risk assessment indicates the referral doesn’t proceed, the kaikawe kōrero will notify Police, who can then decide to prosecute.
The purpose of the hui matua is to agree actions that the participant will take. It’s as unlike court as possible and allows plenty of time for discussion. This helps the participant to look at what’s influencing their behaviour to commit crime.
The participant sits with the kaikawe kōrero and māngai o te hāpori (panel members) around an oval table. Also present are the Police observer and any whānau members/support people (not lawyers). Victims are always invited.
The session opens with a karakia and introductions. The Police observer outlines the summary of facts and the participant and victim are asked for their versions.
The panel then looks into what’s happening in the participant’s life; what led them to carry out the crime; avenues for restoration; how to address the underlying criminal behaviour; and how to help them stop re-offending.
The participant agrees to complete certain actions to make up for the harm caused. These actions are included in an agreement. An agreement may include a requirement for an apology to the victim, payment as reparation or some form of community service to address the harm. Agreements may also refer the participant to support services to help them to deal with problems that led to the offence.
Participants usually have six weeks to complete these actions or risk being charged.
“Instead of travelling a well-worn path to court, which can lead to more serious offending and a possible prison sentence, Te Pae Oranga provides participants with access to local services to address the underlying offending behaviour,” says Mr McLean. “This can include training or support services like drivers’ licence training; referral to health, social or budgeting services; or employment opportunities.”
Huinga o muri
The purpose of the huinga o muri is to support the participant to achieve the agreed actions.
- The Te Pae Oranga provider follows up with the participant to support them to achieve the agreed actions;
- The provider then reports back to Police;
- If the participant completes the agreed actions, they won’t go to court. If the participant doesn’t, Police will review and decide on the best option, which may include prosecution.
Michael McLean says Police have had some real successes with Te Pae Oranga and it is changing lives, with around 80% of people who attended completing their agreed actions. “It’s transforming the experience of justice for thousands of people, by keeping participants out of the court system and a spiral into more serious offending,” he says.
“In one case, we found out that the participant involved in a bust-up over a $20 debt was raising nine children alone in extreme poverty. The panel put support in place, from food aid to donated furniture. The panel also engaged a social worker, found the children places in schools nearer home and contacted their absent father, who agreed to help.
“In another case, a participant stole a tray of cookies. He didn’t know why – but being caught was the best thing that could have happened. He could have been prosecuted, fined and left with problems worsened. Instead, we referred him to Te Pae Oranga at Waiwhetu Marae, Lower Hutt.
“The panel discovered that he’d worked in forestry for 12 years but quit after seeing a workmate killed. He had no benefits, unresolved trauma and a drug problem. He wanted to work, he said, and get straight. He agreed to pay $80 reparation and write a letter of apology. The panel referred him to drug and trauma counselling and offered him help to find work and get his driving licence. They also appointed a whānau ora navigator to support him as he completed these actions.
‘We’ve had victims say to us that they’re happy to have the case over and done with – they’ve had the harm put right much faster than if it had gone through the courts.”
Te Pae Oranga is also making a significant contribution to building the capacity and capability of justice sector organisations to work with Māori in partnership. It empowers communities to look after their own and lays a solid foundation for the future.
Police are currently updating Te Pae Oranga documentation. Please contact Police for help or more information, or get a copy of the Police Referral Guidelines for Te Pae Oranga: MPES@police.govt.nz
Rosalie Chamberlain is a contractor with the New Zealand Police.