Saturday, October 10, 2015

Arthur Taylor wins as Paremoremo Maxi gets closer to being shut down.

Earlier in the week we saw the Minister of Corrections Sam Lotui'iga set about striking into the foundation works of a new maximum security prison to be built at Paremoremo in close distance, just over a small prison road in fact, from where the 'old' Maxi Security Block stands with all it's secrets, its violence, the spaces where men's bleak futures were sometimes uplifted into a better life, or where others died by their own hands or that of others. Some days later we got the chance to read a  judgement delivered by the Appeal Court into an appeal by Arthur William Taylor who won case of the analysis of the New Zealand Constitution, Bill of Rights. He's had more than a few victories in his various differences with the NZ Justice system where he has been imprisoned for much of life.

I recall recently reading a disclosure in the Courts or media where he had spoken or written about issues of rehabilitation - it seemed to be particular to be in respect of youth who got fed into the Justice system and were criminalised by it, or had their fledging or experimental criminality, hardened. In this week where the grounds for a new maximum security block is to be built the long term prisoner Taylor is successful in our 2nd highest Court in winning an appeal as to his, in fact our, rights under the New Zealand Constitution. His opponent once again the Justice System that failed to conscript the young Taylor into a law abiding citizen. Most people agree that the early years of any person's life are the most important, in that respect the Justice System failed Arthur Taylor and around 80% of those that come into their 'care' as children, teenagers or young adults.

Maybe the old Maxi Unit will be opened up for the public to view in future times. Those who will have read the latest judgement favouring Arthur Taylor who remember the detail that according to the Justice Department refusing to let Arthur be interviewed on TV one reason was that Arthur ought not be interviewed was because he jammed a lock in his cell,  also set a fire there - in the end of the road  formerly called D Block, now whitewashed with a new name 'East Block' will get a surprise to find there are no locks on D Block cells. Surely not, one might think. How could the gaolers not know there were no locks on the cells. It would certainly be a mishap, dangerous maximum security prisoners in cells which someone had forgotten to include a lock? Basic English please.

Out where Sam had been filmed digging new foundations there had a sound over in which he said would be included in the new institution better rehabilitation than old prison which he described as run down. He spoke about safety of staff, inmates - the design for better  rehabilitative outcomes for those that will be housed there. It really was a fresh start dug into the clay according to Sam. Clay of course is a barren underlay where fresh roots can't crop. The Minister would not have known that later in the same week that he overturned those first sods of soil from where a new prison would emerge another man who had spent a great part of his life in the old maximum security unit would win another case against Sam's department, the same one for which the Minister furnished hope for better outcomes as he dug at the foundations. A further analysis of those foundations and the case Taylor just won would show that what Arthur dug into was the self protecting construction of the Justice Department. Arguing that Taylor was too dangerous to be interviewed because he allegedly 'jammed' a lock exemplifies how old antiquated the Justice System in NZ has become.

From the beginning of having prisoners mine rock to in fact build prisons where they were fed meagre food, lashed and treated largely according to the whim of the prison master whether he be a good man or one described as tough. Prisons where the opportunity to go to Court over a grievance was limited to periodic visits by a Magistrate called a visiting Justice whose main task was to deal with serious 'insubordination' resulting in punishments of isolation and restricted diets designed to break the spirit of incalcitrant prisoners, escapers, the violent and often those of disturbed mind who could be ordered into the care of psychiatric institution - to a time now where only a small percentage of prisoners have the knowledge of opportunity to seek Justice in the Courts was marked this week.

What was also marked for the keen observer was the nonsense that the Justice Department can bring to situations. Taylor had sought a Judicial Review of the JD (Justice Department's) decision to not allow Television NZ to interview Taylor about another case Taylor won regarding the rights of prisoners to smoke tobacco. The High Court rejected the Judicial Review which Taylor in turn took to the Court of Appeal. There the Court first of all referred to the description of Heath in the High Court as to the essence of Taylor's case as;

As Heath J succinctly put it, the issues arising involve the balance to be struck between the need to maintain order in a prison and the human rights of its inmates.

This is the old acorn of prison administration 'maintaining order' which is invariably wheeled out as a buttress against anything other that routines which suit the prison, and the administrational mind set as order at all costs. Basically most people would agree that an interview is hardly likely to strike at good order in a prison, especially in a maxi unit where all inmates are locked down anyway. Additionally, there was the opportunity for the JD to take action to prevent TVNZ from presenting to the public any segment of the interview by Court Order. A compromise could quickly have been reached leaving those of the public who watched the interview able to make up their own minds as to it's value and consider the counter views of both the JD and Taylor himself.

The concept that 'order' would be disrupted by an interview held in a maximum security unit is fragile and should have failed in the first instance. Of course more thoughtful people might consider that the concern about 'order' was simply a red herring and the uncomfortableness of the JD was that they had lost the case Taylor had taken to Court over smoking. When considerations such as that can be seen to linger in the background the JD ought to be more circumspect about 'order' as an old favourite and consider the depth and breadth of 'human rights' under the NZ Constitution of  Human Rights. In doing so it could be submitted that they are benefitting society by ensuring all citizens are equal before the Law. The message in that is also to the inmates who feel aggrieved or lost in a system where they might have spent most of their lives without a voice or direction. This in itself is in the public interest, the move forward of an archaic Justice System with it's high failure rate.

More fool me perhaps, but I genuinely believe in the efforts by Minister Sam, that hatched within the current Government and it's predecessors. Most importantly by the current Minister of Finance looking at the financial generational costs of not capturing those youngsters (as Taylor once was) tangled in the Justice System. Time to remember all the recent reports into the abuse against children in the care of the Government, the mixing of those in care from abuse or neglect with those in care for crime - each treated no differently, one group victims, the second beginning to victimise others - be tough and bad or die.

Obviously I don't believe in obstinacy against good reason, or against demonstrations of logic and fairness to those in particular who may not have ever experienced the same. In Taylor's recent victory we all share in the thought of what is right should prevail and that which is wrong cannot be disguised as 'order' or as broken locks where there are no locks.

Even the locks feature in the COA Judgement where it is described that a SMS message was received to prison, thought to having come from within the prison, where, how exciting and fortunate for the JD - it was revealed that during the consultation process with TVNZ over the interview news broke that Taylor had flooded his D Block cell, set a fire and jammed the locks. Even if that were true the person in danger was Taylor himself which seems quite contrary to the view of considering the safety of others, rather than Taylor, in deciding whether he could be interviewed. By the time the review of the decision had been heard and the appeal held it was acknowledged that the SMS message was incorrect, only a hopefully bewildered person would consider that it was not a member of the JD who had sent the message from within the prison, and who of course had been unable to consider Taylor allegedly harming himself in a protest was not threat to any other person.

The report that accompanied the 2nd decision not to allow the interview basically were wisps of smoke, maybes that included character analysis and the purported motivation of Taylor himself - all of which was quickly set aside by the COA as irrelevant, or in my terms irrational speculation without logical reasoning. Para 44 of the Judgement on extra material sought to be submitted post the original decision and declined was of particular interest in that it referred to prison 'hard liner' Garth McVicar being refused permission to visit Taylor - in itself a surprise, that the 2 men from very different sides of the fence were not allowed to meet.

In finding the appeal in Taylor's favour the Court gave significant weight to the false allegations made about Taylor and the lock. Minister Sam is a Lawyer and well as Minister of the Crown and many days ago released the care of the digger (excavator) back to its operator. It might now be time for the Minister to seek information from someone duly qualified to 'dig into' where the false allegation arose from, you know the one - the one that miraculously supported the JD decision to turn down the interview.

In the meantime Garth McVicar who recently lost a Judicial Review for want of status regarding a Parole Board decision might be even more interested to meet Arthur Taylor, if not for that fact alone.  However, if solely for the symbolism, a Minister digging the foundations for a new prison in the shadow of the old prison where one man somehow, without training, and by self education became a person able to win cases of merit concerning the Bill of Rights. Achieving this milestone from behind razor wire nearby where the Minister worked in a photo opportunity for the press and claims of improve rehabilitation, is worth noting. It is mysteries such as these (the false report) that favour the Crown or Police in some prosecutions which are seldom dug into after the fact of their falsity is revealed which leave those adversely effected by them to learn the inequality of the administration of the Law strikes at freedom and all rights which follow - that is a lesson that students of the Law (as the Minister once was) might learn from this case.

The full judgement is here:

CA816/2013 [2015] NZCA 477