Authorities remain tight-lipped following claims of inhumane treatment at Arorangi Prison.
Cook Islands News has again approached authorities, as Rarotonga lawyer Norman George has questioned the nation’s legal system and institutions, and called for a committee to be set up to review it.
His calls come amid claims
prisoners are being beaten and abused at the jail.
Cook Islands News earlier
contacted incumbent Minister of Corrective Services George “Maggie” Angene with
Minister Maggie said he did
not know anything, and the matter had nothing to do with him.
Again, on Monday, Minister
Maggie said he did not know anything.
On Monday, Norman George suggested
home detention be an option after former Arorangi prisoner Teina Simiona Ataera
Junior went public last week with revelations Cook Islands authorities denied
him access to medication.
Ataera was convicted of
possession of cannabis for the purpose to supply in July, 2021, and sentenced
to three year’s jail.
At his sentencing it was
reported he had eight different medical conditions and those conditions made
Ataera, now in Auckland for
treatment, described conditions at Arorangi Prison as inhumane, claiming he
witnessed other prisoners being beaten and punched, then moved to maximum
That included a four-month
spell in maximum security for him.
Speaking to Cook Islands News
from Auckland last week, Ataera said his condition has deteriorated, leaving
him debilitated and wheelchair-bound.
Authorities did not comment.
Cook Islands News contacted
Police, Crown Law, Government and Health on Monday with more questions, asking
if the legal system needed to be reviewed, and if there are any proposals in
terms of addressing the legal system.
The newspaper did not receive
The newspaper also asked
authorities to respond to George’s claims that: “We have the worst system
around, poorly funded, over bureaucratised and controlled, and not worth it”.
“A good example is we have no
Sentencing Act, so we have been using the New Zealand Act, and I find it
extremely harsh. Sentences in the Drug and Narcotics Act are three times
harsher in our current Act than the NZ laws,” George said in a letter to the
“Right now there are only three
active lawyers practicing in the Criminal Bar.”
George also said lawyers are
not attracted because most clients do not or are unable to pay their legal
fees, “the NZ system is well funded with lawyers graded according to their
“I am the only one doing trial
by jury in the Cook Islands. My concern is that I am not going to be around
forever; we need to establish a Public Defenders Office, with lawyers paid
salaries to defend people facing criminal, traffic and other charges.”