Research to better understand the public’s awareness and appetite for change in in the criminal justice system was undertaken by Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata – Safe and Effective Justice over six weeks in late 2019.

The analysis of Hāpaitia’s survey can be found here:

2019 public survey of attitudes toward the justice system [PDF, 1.2 MB]

2019 public survey of attitudes toward the justice system (accessible version) [DOCX, 39 KB]

The results were released on conjunction with research from the Ministry of Justice’s New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey, into perceptions of the New Zealand criminal justice system, which can be found here:

Perceptions of the New Zealand criminal justice system(external link)

What the Hāpaitia Survey found

  • An overwhelming majority of respondents disagree with the current distribution of money within the criminal justice system, showing a clear public appetite for change.
  • Respondents are in favour of spending relatively more money on supporting victims, preventing crime and investing in offender rehabilitation programmes.
  • A relative majority of respondents are in favour of spending more on investigating crime and spending less on managing sentences and adjudicating cases.
  • An overwhelming majority of respondents perceive that victims’ interests should be at the heart of the criminal justice system.
  • A majority of respondents agree that Māori should take the lead on solutions to criminal justice issues for Māori.
  • An overwhelming majority of respondents agree that less serious offences should be dealt with in communities instead of through the formal justice system.
  • Respondents believe that the criminal justice system should mainly focus on preventing crime from happening in the first place.
  • Punishing offenders is the least popular purpose of court sentencing for both groups.

Background to Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata – Safe and Effective Justice

Minister Andrew Little established the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata programme (Hāpaitia) in 2018 to support a national conversation on our justice system and to help guide the transformation of the system, to be safer and more effective.

Since its establishment Hāpaitia has engaged in one of the most extensive community consultation on our criminal justice system ever.

The Hāpaitia programme supported the work of Te Uepū Hapai i Te Ora – the Justice Advisory Group (Te Uepū), chaired by Chester Borrows. Te Uepū Hapai i Te Ora disbanded upon completing their final report of recommendations to improve the criminal justice system, Turuki! Turuki! Move Together, which was released in December 2019.

This included a comprehensive programme of face to face engagement, meetings with stakeholders and the public, and through innovative means such as this survey.

Methodology

In November 2019, under the workplan to support Te Uepū, the Hāpaitia Engagement Team launched a digital survey to help understand public perceptions and to test the appetite for transforming the criminal justice system.

The survey asked members of the public to share their opinions on key themes from the national conversation on the criminal justice system.

The survey was supported by relevant data and evidence to encourage informed participation. It was available for six weeks, until 18 December 2019, and was promoted via social media, through stakeholder channels and offered at key ‘face-to-face’ events around the country.

At the same time, the survey (without the supporting evidence) was offered to a randomised representative nation-wide sample of people drawn from the list of respondents to the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey. This provided an ability to benchmark responses to the self-selected survey and give additional confidence in the robustness of the survey. There was a total of 4,604 responses of both the digital and representative forms of the survey.

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