“ACT is appalled to learn of the case of an offender using Section 27 to present a judge with a cultural background report written by his mum,” says ACT Justice spokesman Todd Stephenson in response to reporting from the Waikato Times.

“Calling in mum to make excuses for your behaviour is something you’d do in primary school – but under Section 27 of the Sentencing Act it’s happening in the Courts, and judges are forced to listen. It’s the infantilisation of our justice system.”

“A report from mum is hardly going to be an even-handed appraisal of the offender’s background. A key problem with cultural reports is that they are not based on verifiable evidence, but on the word of the offender – and in this case, their whanau.”

“Cultural reports outline an offender’s personal, family, whanau, community, and cultural background. Since 2017, a cottage industry has developed in which offenders apply for additional legal aid to pay professionals to write justifications of their criminal behaviour, with the goal of influencing judges into delivering lighter sentences.”

“To take just one example, this year a man who punched a pregnant woman unconscious was let out on home detention, because a cultural background report found he hadn’t been properly introduced to his whakapapa. The woman he punched was pregnant with the man’s seventeenth child.”

“ACT previously revealed that in the 12 months to June this year, taxpayers forked out $7.56 million to produce cultural reports for criminals – a 27 percent increase on the year prior.”

“ACT’s coalition agreement secured the defunding of Section 27 reports and exploring further reform of how these reports are used. The agreement also commits to abolish the Labour Government’s prisoner reduction target and reform the Sentencing Act 2002 to give greater weight to the needs of victims and communities over offenders.”

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