Thursday, November 18, 2021

Bribing for convictions

Imagine that you've been arrested and are facing criminal charges. Now imagine that the government tries to bribe your lawyer to encourage you to plead guilty. It's obviously corrupt and a complete mockery of justice. But that's exactly what the New Zealand Government wants to do:

The Criminal Process Improvement Programme, developed by Police, Corrections and the Ministry of Justice, seeks to streamline the court process.

The Ministry of Justice says court delays were a problem even before the pandemic, with an average of nearly four court 'events' required between charges being laid and a plea being entered.

The new policy, to be piloted at Hamilton District Court in early December, with Gisborne and Manukau to follow, offers financial incentives to duty lawyers - who are on hand at courts to provide free legal services for people who don't have a lawyer.

The scheme will pay duty lawyers a 'higher duties allowance' of $50 for a plea, $90 for a plea and sentencing on the same day, $50 for sentencing and $90 for a bail application.

The Law Society and other legal groups are very clear that this is a conflict of interest which incentivises quick guilty pleas. It also means that no-one should trust advice from a duty solicitor, since they're so obvious compromised by their position. But the government doesn't care. A fast process is apparently more important to them than a just one, and they don't mind committing bribery to get it.