The Iwi Community Panel Changed My Way Of Thinking

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December 22, 2020

A combination of factors including driving under the influence of a substance led to me being charged with careless use of a motor vehicle. A conviction would have meant a loss of licence, and I would have lost my job as a consequence.
Instead of being sent to Court, I was referred to the Iwi Community Panel – an alternative resolution process for low-level offenders.
Following on from this, I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I have changed my way of thinking and how I approach life. I know I would never drive under the influence of a substance again.

It had been a long day. I was on my way home from a friends house at around 4.30 in the morning after picking up my belongings after splitting from my girlfriend, a long work day, and a visit with some friends.

It had been an emotional day, and I had also taken a drug. It was late, but instead of staying at a friends house , I made the decision to jump in my car and head home. I don’t know what I was thinking!

Next thing I knew, I was in a paddock. I had fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed through a fence. Luckily I wasn’t injured, but I had damaged the fence. The police arrived and I knew I would be getting charged.

The constable offered me the opportunity to appear in front of a panel rather than Court. This meant I would stay out of the court system and wouldn’t receive a criminal conviction. But, of course, I still had to answer to my offending.

I was a bit nervous heading into the panel, but it wasn’t too bad once we started talking. The panel asked me to talk about what happened on that night and all they wanted was complete honesty. The members of the panel listened to me explain what happened and asked a few questions. It was helpful for me talk about what had happened and I felt incredibly lucky with the outcome.

I was asked to write an apology letter to the owner of the fence and a thank you letter to the police officer who had referred me. It meant a lot to me to write those letters and I personally felt it helped me. I also got to keep my licence which is a huge deal to me because without it, I would have lost my job and my whole world would have fallen apart.

The entire experience has really shaken me up. The panel helped me to put everything into perspective, and change my way of thinking. I know now just how much worse things could have been.

I still have my job, and I don’t have a conviction, and I am very thankful for that.

I just want to say to people that if they are referred to the panel they need to go in with the right attitude – That you’ve done something wrong and you’re prepared for any consequences. I think that’s the biggest thing. Know you’ve messed up and you’re prepared to right the wrongs.

WHAT ARE IWI COMMUNITY PANELS? 
A supported resolution process for low-level offenders focusing on education, prevention and accountability. The service is provided by Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust in partnership with Police, Iwi and the wider community. An Iwi Community Panel is an inquisitive hearing with a purpose of discovering the underlying reasons for offending and determine outcomes to address these. We want to affect long-term social and behavioural change to reduce re-offending.


WHAT CAN I EXPECT ON THE DAY?

Participants appear in front of a panel of three volunteer community members, often on a marae, where a hearing takes place with a purpose of discovering the underlying reasons for offending and determine outcomes to address these. Eligible participants avoid court and conviction upon successful completion of the process.


WHO ARE THE PANEL MEMBERS?
Panel members are made up of prominent community members with a desire to create change, and who have an ability to treat all participants with respect and dignity. 


WHO IS ELIGIBLE? 
Police can refer a participant to the ICP if they are aged 17 years or over, the offence carries six months’ imprisonment or less (and is not an offence related to family violence or methamphetamine use) and the participant admits guilt. Police have full discretion as to whether they choose to refer to ICP as opposed to diversion or court.


WHO PARTICIPATES IN HEARINGS? 
Victims are always consulted, invited to attend and encouraged to bring whanau.
The panel of three, an observer and a police officer will be present to answer questions of law and to provide relevant information when appropriate.


WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES?
Nga Kete is a social services hub with the ability to refer internally and externally.
Outcomes are tailored to each participant and should address their reasons for offending. Education and prevention – not punishment.
Outcomes can include reparation, apology letters, community work, or an educational course i.e. defensive driving.


WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HEARING? 
The ICP co-ordinator will decide the timeframe the participant has to complete the tasks and will work with the participant to help them complete their outcomes.
We are required to return files as non-compliant if the participant does not complete their outcomes in the given time frame.

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