Dictum: Maree Cassaidy, Outreach Co-Manager

We strongly believe that there are a huge number of law students at Auckland who are passionate about equal justice, and are looking for the opportunity to complement their classroom learning with some real world legal experience connected to equal justice issues. For that reason we have decided to highlight the work being done by our managers and volunteers to offer our readers insight into what it is the Equal Justice Project does, and how working with us can enrich your law school experience.

If you find yourself inspired by what you read, and you’re going to be studying at Part II level or above in 2016 at Auckland Law School, keep an eye out for the next post in ‘Dictum’, our interview series, and look around the website for updates about what the Project’s up to, and for how to get involved. 

Our second interview for 2015 is with Maree Cassaidy, Pro Bono Co-Manager for 2015. Maree is in her third year studying towards an LLB/BCom Conjoint, majoring in Marketing and Management.

What exactly does the Outreach team do?

The Outreach team aims to raise awareness and encourage discussion of the topical legal issues facing our society. We do this through intellectually stimulating symposia directed both at university students and the general public, and engaging in law reform projects such as submissions to Parliament. We also provide active support to our community partners (such as Auckland Women’s Centre and Women’s Refuge through fundraising and legal research.

Were you involved with any similar organizations, or did you do any similar activities, before joining the Equal Justice Project? What experiences did you have at EJP before becoming Outreach Co-Manager?

I joined EJP at the beginning of 2014 as a Part II student fresh to the Law School. I was a volunteer in the Education team and engaged in teaching basic legal information to high school students. I am also involved with Synergy, which is a student-led organisation which hosts a pro-bono consulting project for charities. Last year I consulted for Christians Against Poverty, and was the Team Leader for this project. This year I have stayed on as a mentor for new consultants.

What’s your role as one of the Outreach Co-Managers?

Alongside my superstar Co-Manager, Joy Guo, my role is to ensure each project we undertake runs smoothly and successfully. We aim to provide fulfilling and interesting projects for our volunteers. We create the frame for each project by seeking academic support, creating research briefs, and setting deadlines before we hand over to our very capable volunteers. It is also really important to us that our volunteers are well supported throughout the process.

What have been some past successes of the Outreach team – are there any high profile issues that you’ve worked on before?

Last year, the Outreach team held several notable symposia on topics such as drug reform and financial restraints barring access to equal justice. Prior to the 2014 elections, a political candidates forum was held on the topic of sexual offending law reform, which was comprised of 8 of the 10 major political parties. The team also submitted on the Buildings (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill, the Education Amendment Bill (No.2) and the Crimes (Match-Fixing) Amendment Bill. For Women’s Refuge and the Blind Foundation the team raised close to $500 from bake sales alone.

What has Outreach been up to so far this year?

We are currently well underway in the planning of an exciting symposium. In light of the recent high-profile decisions in the David Bain, Mark Lundy, and Teina Pora cases, the Outreach Team is hosting an event titled, “Miscarriages of Justice: Are we putting the wrong people in our prisons?”.

What’s involved in putting a symposium like that together?

Joy and I first had to consider the vast array of sub-topics that fall under the Miscarriages of Justice issue and determine which ones we were in the best position to answer, and which we believed were most important to the current justice system. We then had to seek speakers from a vast array of disciplines in order to provide a well-rounded discussion on the topic. For the last month, our volunteers have been hard at work compiling research into a written submission for the symposium, which we will be able to provide to both the speakers and the general public.

Who will be speaking at the symposium?

We are excited to announce that the members of the symposium panel will be:

  1. Jacinda Ardern (Labour List MP and Justice Spokesperson)
  2. Peter Jenkins (Sensible Sentencing Trust)
  3. Julie-Anne Kincade (Barrister from Lundy’s defence team)
  4. Marie Dyhrberg QC (ADLSi Criminal Law Committee Chair, defence counsel for the Pora trials, and former chair of the Criminal Law Committee of the International Bar Association)
  5. John Buttle (Senior Criminology Lecturer, Media Commentator)

What will be discussed? What sorts of people should attend?

  • The symposium will consider two broad overarching questions:
    1. Are there gaps in the prosecution, trial, conviction, and appeal processes in our Criminal Justice System that may lead to a miscarriage of justice?
    2. If there are gaps, how can we address them to deliver more adequate justice?
  • This symposium is open to the general public. We encourage all walks of life to attend, especially those with an interest in the future of our Criminal Justice system. There will be refreshments and nibbles afterwards to allow attendees to meet our speakers and continue the conversation about such a pressing issue.

When/Where will this symposium be held?

The symposium will be held at the University of Auckland General Library (Room B10) on Wednesday 13 May at 6pm. You can refer to our Facebook event page for more details, or email the Outreach managers at oncampus@equaljusticeproject.co.nz if you have any queries!

Is it free?

Entry is free for all attendees!

How do you see what the Outreach team does as fitting into EJP’s work as a whole?

EJP aims to seek access to equal justice through education, service and advocacy. A large part of our mandate is to encourage discussion and raise awareness. This is really important because without awareness we don’t have action, and without action we don’t have change. This idea is something that resonates with me personally because a good chunk of my passion towards equality and social change has been generated through EJP symposia held in previous years.

Do you think that your time with EJP has enriched your time at Law School?

Without a doubt, yes. The opinions and ideas I’ve held for a while have a new-found fervour. EJP provides a practical way for me to use the skills and the knowledge that I gain through law school for the benefit of the wider community. It is certainly more rewarding than writing opinions and compiling exam notes for nobody’s benefit but my own.

Speaking as an individual, rather than as an Outreach manager, what issue or issues do you think are the most important social justice concerns in New Zealand at present?

Our symposium topic, Miscarriages of Justice, is something that I strongly believe suggests that we need to consider changes in our criminal justice system. Whether guilty or not guilty, a miscarriage of justice means that something has gone wrong somewhere, and that we should therefore actively be seeking ways to remedy this. I also believe that New Zealand’s justice system should have a stronger focus on rehabilitation and the successful re-integration of prisoners into our community. I am truly inspired by Judges Tremewan and Aitken and their initiative in establishing New Zealand’s first alcohol and drugs courts. Their work acknowledges the human condition of making mistakes, or falling victim to addiction, and recognising opportunities for second chances.

Thank you for your time Maree.  All the best for Outreach this year!

Work previously completed by the Outreach team is available to view here.

The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Equal Justice Project. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official. The Equal Justice Project makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The Equal Justice Project will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.

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