The injustice in justice. An examination of the quality of legal representation young Māori men receive in the criminal justice system

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Bold-Wilson, Paula
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Social Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Bridgman, Geoffrey
Keelan, Josie
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Māori youth
Māori men
legal representation
social justice
criminal justice system
justice system
indigenous methodologies
Bold-Wilson, P. (2018). The injustice in justice. An examination of the quality of legal representation young Māori men receive in the criminal justice system. An unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Social Practice, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
“We cannot run society for the privileged and allow a significant proportion of the population to be marginalized. It impacts the quality of life for all of us if we have ‘throw away’ people. A justice system which tolerates injustice is doomed to collapse.” - Leonard Noisette This research explored the quality of legal representation Māori men receive in the New Zealand Justice system. Drawing on interviews with eight Māori men aged 18-30, the research project challenges the discourses implicit within the terms ‘justice’ and ‘quality’. Through the utilisation of kaupapa Māori methodologies, ‘quality’ is defined by the participants, and is used to assess their experience with their lawyers in the criminal justice system. Three lawyers were also interviewed, to gain their perspectives on the young men’s construction of their experience. Findings indicate that the men who had appeared multiple times in the justice system, had experienced social, economic, cultural and political disadvantage. Accordingly, these determinants of wellbeing are considered, in order to provide a greater understanding of the factors which have permeated and shaped their lived experiences. In examining the young men’s experience from their initial engagement with the police, their experiences with their lawyers, through to being sentenced by a judge in court, themes of unconscious bias, unjust practices and white privilege emerged from the narratives. In considering ‘quality’, the lawyer/client relationship was integral to their experience. The use of legal terminology, the range of legal options made available to clients, and lawyers’ willingness to defend non-guilty pleas created barriers to justice for these young men. In addition, the lawyers identified systemic issues such as inadequate resourcing, significant workloads, and problematic courtroom environments as factors which contribute to legal services which are substandard. The thesis concludes that Māori responses to justice, such as the Hoani Waititi Tikanga Programme, Māori social workers in court and whānau support were pivotal turning points for the participants. Moreover, addressing systemic barriers, provides the answers to reducing the disproportionate number of Māori in the New Zealand1 criminal justice system. A key factor in this research thesis is that kaupapa Māori methodology can not only provide an effective means to empower research participants, but also adds value by enhancing social justice in an area that is not widely researched.
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