Sunday, August 17, 2014

Open-air courthouse 'human zoo' holding cage described as 'barbaric' and 'positively Victorian'

The open-air holding pen dubbed "a human zoo" outside the courthouse is just part and parcel of living in the King Country town of Te Kuiti on New Zealand's North Island. But the sight of it has shocked justice advocates around the country who have described the outside holding area as "barbaric" and "positively Victorian".

Retired defence lawyer Peter Williams QC called the practice 'humiliating' and 'absolutely barbaric'. "How the justice department can justify a holding pen is just unbelievable, it's beyond imagination ... just absolutely wrong," the lawyer of 60 years experience said. "Whoever is responsible for it should be dealt some type of discipline and the thing should be dismantled and the proper remand rooms or accommodation put up to civilised standards."

Wellington human rights lawyer and member of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties Michael Bott said the cage 'almost has an element of theatre about it'. "In many ways the cage on a street sounds like it's barely a step removed from the stocks a couple of hundred years ago which were used to shame people ... it's positively Victorian." Bott said not all the people in the cage were convicted of a crime either which would appear to breach people's privacy. He said it was a clear breach of S23(5) of the Bill of Rights Act which states 'everyone deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person'.

"Not everyone who is bailed is convicted ... it just seems bizarre." Roger Brooking, who has 15 years experience working in the justice arena, was gobsmacked. "It's totally weird. I have never seen anything like that before. I had no idea there was a human zoo for offenders in Te Kuiti. I think it's disgusting, quite frankly. This is something you would see in a third world country, or something out of the middle ages." Tony Fisher, general manager of district courts, said the Ministry of Justice had received no negative feedback about the "secure entranceway".

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