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April 19, 2021 2 min
How do you feel about restorative justice programmes?  Should they be reserved for first-time offenders? Low-level offenders? May even low-level recidivist slow-learning offenders? Or are you okay with the net being cast much wider?
For the past few years, the government has invested big bucks in Te Pae Oranga, iwi community panels. This Maori-led restorative justice programme has been rolled out across the country as an alternative resolution scheme. Its designed to divert offenders from being clobbered with criminal convictions. It aims to keep the low-levellers out of the court and prison system.
And the whole panel process is geared at encouraging the participating offenders to face up to the underlying factors behind their offending.
But yesterday’s revelations are simply grist for the mill, reaffirming the raging perception that Labour is slobbery big softie when it comes to crime. 
In the past nine months, a dozen people who assaulted police officers dodged criminal charges in favour of having a come together at an iwi community panel. Assaulting a cop. Excuse me?
And if that’s not alarming enough, 18 reprobates collared for firearms offences  were also given the community panel treatment. Those offences ranged from possessing guns illegally, discharging firearms in a house and wielding a firearm at another person. Now, apparently some of those offences related to airguns, but certainly not all.
Interestingly, the Police Minister reassured the public as recently as March that firearms offences weren’t a runner at these panels. They weren’t deemed low-level offending. Nor should they be. The police guidelines for community panel appearances take the same stance.
So why aren’t those policy settings being kept to?
It is gross in the extreme to suggest firing a gun in a house or bashing a cop is a trifling matter, a low-level offence.
The Police Minister claims the iwi community panels have seen the harm caused by re-offending drop by twenty two per cent, whatever that means. But allowing firearms offenders and thugs who assault cops to dodge criminal charges is a glaring case of project creep.   
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