Non-Adversarial Justice Centre in New Zealand!

Under the Directorship of Professor Warren Brookbanks, the new Centre will operate as a research centre within the School of Law at AUT University.
Its aim will be to encourage research and the dissemination of knowledge in the rapidly growing area of non-adversarial justice in New Zealand. It is anticipated that the Centre will become the academic focus in New Zealand for developments in this area, and provide cross-disciplinary leadership to academia, the legal profession, and other professionals engaged in non-adversarial problem-solving.

Because there is currently no formal agency or organisation in New Zealand pursuing an explicitly non-adversarial justice agenda, the Centre is uniquely positioned to provide national leadership and to assist in the development of policy in non-adversarial justice and related areas. Through the Centre early links will be established with other leading international bodies and organisations involved in non-adversarial justice, with a view to establishing networking opportunities and sharing experience and knowledge in this emerging domain.

New Zealand law is currently at a cross-roads as regards its preferred approach to legal problem-solving. While adversarial models have served the legal community and social needs since the beginning of colonisation, it is now clear that in many quarters non-adversarial approaches are being sought and approved for a range of legal disputes.

The use of mediation and alternative dispute resolution is now ubiquitous, with many institutions/organisations preferring ADR to resolve legal conflicts, rather than litigating matters through the courts. Within the context of family law, the growing use of collaborative law approaches to deal with a range of inter-personal disputes, is a response to the realization that adversarial justice exacts a high price amongst litigants and does not always produce emotionally beneficial outcomes. By contrast, collaborative law practitioners would claim that a contractually agreed non-adversarial model is better able to deal with the nuances of family disputes, while avoiding the often huge psychological stresses that accompany adversarial solutions.

In the realm of criminal law restorative justice has gained considerable ground in New Zealand and is endorsed in criminal justice legislation. It is rapidly being acknowledged as the preferred mode for victim/offender reconciliation and the rehabilitation of offenders. Its recent legislative establishment as a mandated model in any criminal case where there is a victim, shows a serious official recognition of the value of this form of victim/offender engagement, and indicates the New Zealand Parliament’s desire to mainstream the strengths of a restorative approach within the criminal justice system.

Allied to restorative justice the establishment in New Zealand of a new generation of ‘solution-focussed’ courts, including Alcohol and other Drug Addiction courts, a ‘New Beginnings court’ targeting homeless offenders, and Rangitahi Courts for young Maori offenders, are an indication of New Zealand’s commitment to exploring alternative models of non-adversarial justice. These courts, as with their correlates in other jurisdictions where they are established, aim to arrest patterns of recidivist offending by a radical new approach to judicial problem-solving. The curial approach is intentionally inter-disciplinary and relational and is dependent on the active goodwill of community-based resources to help address the chronic dysfunction in the lives of offenders in order to turn around patterns of offending.

Similarly, therapeutic jurisprudence, with its commitment to exploring the role of the law as a healing agent, has gained traction in New Zealand and is now formally recognised as a legitimate discourse in the development of alternative approaches to legal problem-solving. In future it is anticipated that the embedding in legislation of notions of apology and procedural justice, will lead to fundamental changes in the ways in which the role of law is viewed and operationalized, and together with therapeutic jurisprudence, will begin to transform the legal landscape in New Zealand.

The Centre for Non-adversarial justice aims to position itself to be able to provide significant leadership in the further investigation and exposition of these and related legal paradigms, and to encourage younger legal scholars and academics in the pursuit of new and innovative areas of legal research and teaching.

The appointment of Professor Brookbanks as Professor of Criminal Law and Justice Studies and as the Director of the Centre for Non-Adversarial Justice at AUT Law School, is intended to provide strong leadership in this nascent area of law and practice. His experience as a leading scholar in the areas of criminal law and criminal justice, mental health law and therapeutic jurisprudence, will provide a strong academic platform for the Centre to become an internationally recognised research centre, and a national focus for developments on non-adversarial justice.

Beyond the academy the Centre aims to provide leadership to the legal profession, by organising seminars to update practitioners in substantive legal developments in relevant areas of practice, and to provide tuition in the development of skills and competencies in new and emerging areas of advocacy.

The Centre would also have a role in organising conferences and providing extension education to various professional groups through webinars and travelling seminar series.  The highly successful International Conference on Therapeutic Jurisprudence held at Auckland University in early September 2015, and co-chaired by Professor Brookbanks, is a good example of the sort of project the Centre will aim to host in furtherance of its goal of providing national leadership in the domain of non-adversarial justice.

The creation of the Centre at this stage in the development of New Zealand’s legal system is very timely. It will provide an outstanding opportunity for AUT Law School to gain an international profile in non-adversarial justice, and to showcase and disseminate understanding of the many unique New Zealand initiatives in this rapidly developing area of the law.

 Contact Professor Brookbanks

Other similar centres around the world include:

Centre for court innovation (USA and Uk)

Centre for innovative justice (Australia)

The Australian centre for justice innovation (Australia)

Non adversarial and therapeutic justice center (Israel)

Know of others?  Leave a comment below…

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