Saturday, 16 November 2019

A Necessary and Welcome Move

Checks and Balances

We are pleased to see that a formal process will be put in place to review criminal convictions in New Zealand which are subsequently seen as being shonky.  Our small country lost a vital judicial safeguard, cross-check, and balance when rights of appeal to the Privy Council in the UK were removed.  

Now a review of suspect judicial decisions will be available
An important safety valve has been added to New Zealand’s criminal justice system with the third reading of the Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill today.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) will investigate claimed miscarriages of justice.

“We’ve seen how our justice system can very occasionally get things spectacularly wrong, even with rights of appeals, and there needs to be a chance for the innocent on the right grounds to seek a final review of their case. The CCRC is an important mechanism to enhance the independence, timeliness, quality and fairness of investigations into miscarriages of justice,” Justice Minister Andrew Little says.  “If the Commission finds there is a miscarriage they will refer the case back to the Court of Appeal to reconsider whether the convictions should stand or fall.  
It will be interesting to see who will sit on the Commission and whether it will have sufficient information gathering powers.
  The brute reality is that in any such review the reputations of justices and judicial authorities will be "on the line".  We fear that it has been too much of a temptation in the past for judicial authorities to close ranks and support each other.  That is why the right of appeal to the (thoroughly independent) Privy Council was so important. 

The CCRC will have important information gathering powers, including the ability to apply for a court order to access privileged information in a narrow range of circumstances.

“Access to the necessary information will be vital for the CCRC to perform its function most effectively. It is anticipated that the Commission will be able to access most of the information it needs through consent and cooperation, but it is important to have this power to ensure the Commission has access to all relevant information required to investigate and review convictions and sentences,” says Andrew Little. 
We shall see.

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