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Clearer picture of community drug use

A picture of New Zealand’s drug use is set to become clearer with the expansion of wastewater testing across New Zealand, says Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“The Commissioner of Police today announced that wastewater testing at 38 sites in each of the 12 Policing districts will be rolled out this month,” says Mr Nash.

“Wastewater testing provides an accurate measure of illegal drug consumption that is cost effective, timely and non-intrusive.

“Expanding the programme will allow agencies to accurately assess the levels of drug consumption in our major centres and provincial communities to build a better picture of the harm these substances are causing.

“Some of our provincial areas are the most vulnerable to the scourge of methamphetamine, and are being preyed upon by organised criminals who supply it.

“I am pleased that the use of illicit substances will be analysed in these areas so Police and other agencies will be able to make informed decisions on education, prevention and enforcement initiatives.

“Methamphetamine causes a huge amount of social harm and those who supply it in our communities are responsible.

Over the past 18 months, 1.5kg of methamphetamine was estimated to have been consumed on average each week across the 647,000 people sampled at the three test locations. This translates into an estimated $2 million per week in social harm.

“The expanded testing will also give agencies an early warning system for emerging drug risks.

“Fentanyl, for example, was added to the testing programme in May, and while the misuse of this drug remains low, agencies will be now be able to closely monitor any fluctuations or increase in its use,” says Mr Nash.

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Criminal justice conversation continues

Justice Minister Andrew Little continues the conversation about how to fix the broken criminal justice system by announcing the advisory group visits to the regions.

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Te Patukirikiri sign Deed of Settlement

Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little has announced Te Patukirikiri signed a Deed of Settlement with the Crown in Thames.

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New appointments to the Human Rights Commission

Distinguished human rights advocate and lawyer Professor Paul Hunt has been appointed as Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

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Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill passes third reading

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament and will become law, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.

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Significant step to correct miscarriages of justice

Justice Minister Andrew Little has introduced the Bill to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

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First two expungements granted under Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018

Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced the first two expungements of unjust historical convictions under the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018.

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Information sharing to target organised crime

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash and Customs Minister Kris Faafoi are encouraging feedback on a proposal to extend an information sharing agreement designed to crack down on organised crime.

Since 2014 Inland Revenue and Police have worked together under the Serious Crimes Information Sharing Agreement where they have reasonable grounds to suspect a serious offence is being committed. The government proposes extending that agreement to include the Customs Service and the Serious Fraud Office.

“Police and tax authorities work together well when they suspect a serious crime, punishable by a prison term of four years or more, is being committed. We have released a discussion document calling for public submissions on the proposal to include two more agencies under the same framework,” Mr Nash says.

“Under the proposal, the one-way flow of information from the IRD would be extended to the SFO and Customs. Information could be requested from IRD or proactively provided if there are reasonable grounds to suspect a serious offence may be or has been committed.

“Inland Revenue is usually prevented from revealing details of individual taxpayers. However the Privacy Act makes an exception to the general secrecy rule if there is an approved information sharing agreement, or AISA,” Mr Nash says.

Mr Faafoi says an extension to the existing AISA would make it easier for the Customs Service to investigate and track unlawful imports and transactions.

“The IRD could for example share information from tax audits which show significant amounts of money flowing through a bank account which are not related to core business activities. Further investigation by Customs could reveal potential smuggling of drugs or other contraband across our borders,” Mr Faafoi says.

“Government agencies need to work more closely together to disrupt and prevent illicit cross-border activity that not only evades taxes but also leads to harm in our communities,” Mr Faafoi says.

Submissions are open till 30 October 2018. The discussion document is available at taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz.

Question and Answers

1.  What are the main changes proposed by this AISA?

The change is the extension of the original agreement between NZ Police and Inland Revenue, to include two agencies in the sharing of information – NZ Customs Service and the Serious Fraud Office.

The information would be shared with the two additional agencies utilising the same framework that Inland Revenue and the New Zealand Police use to share information for tackling serious crime.

2. How will the new Agreement help agencies prevent serious crime?

The ability to share information held by Inland Revenue with other agencies could open up new lines of enquiry and provide clearer pictures of legitimate revenue streams and illegitimate money, linking individuals and businesses that might be involved in criminal activity.

3. How does this proposed AISA improve information sharing between agencies?

By expanding the AISA to include the Serious Fraud Office and the NZ Customs Service, Inland Revenue would be able to share information with these agencies to help investigations of fraud, corruption and cross-border offences that fit the serious crime definition. Sharing information for this purpose is consistent with the Government’s commitment to making communities safer and reducing crime.

4. What measures are in place to ensure the Privacy of individuals’ information?

The proposed AISA would include controls and processes to minimise any risk of a privacy or secrecy breach occurring. Alongside the protections of the strict secrecy requirements imposed on staff and anyone who receives tax information, the information will be shared on a case-by-case basis and will need to meet a set of criteria to be shared (such as relation to a serious crime and relevance to a case). Information would be available only to authorised staff in each agency to ensure that information is treated appropriately. Staff who knowingly disclose information outside what is legally permitted would face potential criminal liability for breaching taxpayer secrecy.

5. What are the benefits of the extended information sharing?

Information provided by Inland Revenue would assist in providing new leads to an investigation and strengthening serious criminal cases such as fraud, financial crime, money laundering, and drug trafficking. This would support the Government’s objective of giving the NZ Police and the NZ Customs Service the resources they need to crack down on gangs, organised crime and drug trafficking.

6. What will be the cost of setting it up?

For all three agencies, implementation costs would be minimal. The proposed changes do not require any systems or technology changes as the information shared is compiled manually on a case-by-case basis and sent by secure mail.

7. What impact will the extended information sharing / AISA have on individuals whose information is held by the concerned agencies?

The information will only be shared if related to a suspicion of a serious crime, so it won’t affect the majority of individuals whose information is held by the agencies.

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Ngāpuhi momentum and progress continues

Andrew Little, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, is pleased that Tūhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority (TIMA) and Te Kotahitanga o Ngā Hapū Ngāpuhi (TKT) representatives have agreed to hold additional hui next month, so Ngāpuhi can consider a proposal to evolve their mandate and negotiations structure.

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Extra police to combat organised crime

The deployment of 500 extra Police to target organised crime will make significant inroads to efforts to reduce victimisation and improve the wellbeing of our communities, says Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“The Commissioner of Police has today revealed details of how the additional frontline officers will be allocated as part of the unprecedented effort to prevent and combat serious and organised crime,” says Mr Nash.

“Areas of focus include disrupting trans-national criminal groups, national and local gangs, cyber-crime, money laundering and child exploitation. The purpose is to prevent crime and reduce the harm to our communities from the supply of drugs, serious violence and other offending.”

“The 500 extra specialist police are part of the Coalition Agreement with New Zealand First to strive for 1800 extra officers. Gangs and disruption of organised crime was also identified as a priority area in the Coalition Agreement. Extra officers at both district and national level will truly make a difference in our communities.

“Organised criminals and gangs are supplying methamphetamine to our communities with no regard for the significant harm it causes, and these extra police will be going after them.

“Police will be targeting our most serious offenders and criminal leaders to take them off the street. We need to cut the head off the snake. But police will also be looking to help others on the periphery of gang life and other vulnerable people to get the help they need to fight addiction, break the cycle, and improve their lives.”

A further 200 district-based officers will support the focus on preventing organised crime. The new investment also provides for the specialist skills and the tools required for effective 21st-century policing, including the latest technology to combat organised crime.

“The Government’s long term plan makes it a priority to improve the wellbeing of families and communities. We are focussing on preventing crime and reducing reoffending in order to keep our communities safe”, Mr Nash says.

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