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A better kind of justice

Nandor Tanczos

13th June, 2000

Nandor Tanczos thinks the modern legal system could learn a lot from traditional ideas of justice, such as those of the Maori people

Justice is a very simple and natural idea. It is something anyone can recognise. Victims of crime recognise justice when it is done. Ordinary people recognise justice when it is done. And most of the time, an offender will recognise it too.

Yet our modern criminal justice system, even when it works, very rarely leads to real justice.

The reason is that our modern, Westminster-based legal system is based not on justice, but on laws. If I stab someone, the problem, according to the justice system, is not that I hurt them, but that I broke the law. ‘The Crown’ is the complainant, the victim is just another witness, and if I can prove that I didn’t, technically, break the law, then I will go unpunished.

This is not real justice.

It is not real justice because modern court cases are aimed at proving guilt or innocence according to a written set of laws, rather than finding the truth of the matter. It is a system that is unsatisfying for victims and that does even not prevent criminals reoffending. It is a system without life.

There are clear alternatives to such a system. Some years ago, a lawyer here in New Zealand, Moana Jackson, wrote a report entitled ‘Maori...

 

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