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Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill

  • November 15th, 2010

Kudos to Simon Power for the courage to try slaughtering so many sacred cows at once. Sincere members of the profession will have horror predictions of injustice with much less provocation than this. But perhaps the very size of the package will get most of it through.  This is reform on the Roger Douglas model – all fronts at once, so that the opponents of some bits can still find something to applaud. The opposition can not concentrate its resources.

I've read only the Ministerial releases so far, so my reservations may yet prove to be unfounded, but it is disappointing that the expectations are still so meagre. With all this change, it is hard to feel things are being transformed if a High Court jury trial average time to completion is to drop less than 20% from the disgraceful 16 months to 13 months.

The criminal law industry should be deeply ashamed to think that is a radical acheivement. Why, for example, did it take more than two years to bring to trial Austin Hemming's murderer, Paul Leofa Brown, who had already killed before. There was absolutely no doubt about who did it, or the circumstances. The only question at the trial could have been – 'what's your excuse'.

Any common sense system would have given him perhaps an afternoon to answer that – say a month after the arrest. Who can possibly excuse a system that kept this trial hanging for more than two years.

The Bill is complex. It does lots of sensible things. But there will be force in some of the objections. I regret the loss of the right to elect trial by jury for small but important charges on matters of principle, where judges cannot be trusted to reflect the common conscience.

I think for example, of the Hair trial, many years ago, where the cast of the musical were acquitted on charges arising from their nudity on stage, because the jury decided it was time to send a message that time was up for a ridiculous law. That was properly for them to decide, not for the Police.

I fear for the people who sensibly use a weapon to scare off home invaders. Even though plenty of people have been viciously attacked in their homes, judges still sanctimoniously condemn them for "taking the law into their own hands". Juries, on the other hand, rarely convict in those cases.

I wish that the Government had tried a more simple remedy first – just order the judges, with matrix sentencing if necessary, to ensure each sentence reflects the costs a convicted offender has put us all to, if they were needless or offensive. For example, stupid not guilty pleas or requests for jury trials (especially those changed at the last minute – like the plea of Paul Leofa Brown) should earn a substantial increase in penalty. In reality it is no different in outcome from the current more offensive practice of giving a discount for an early guilty plea.

That is offensive to victims. Guilt and remorse should be the norm. Their absence should be penalised – instead of rewarding what is often false regret.

If only the judges had not allowed the law to become so constipated that we have to applaud this current Bill.


  • F E Smith
  • November 16th, 2010
  • 12:55 pm

"Why, for example, did it take more than two years to bring to trial Austin Hemming's murderer, "

I have found that most of the delays in getting High Court cases to trial are caused almost entirely by the prosecution, mostly in the investigation of the case.  Once the case is complete (and often the police are still investigating right up to trial, which means disclosure is never fully complete until actually during the trial) then the Court schedule is the next biggest problem.

You want a solution that does not mean that our rights get trampled on?  Create a specialist criminal division of the District Court jury jurisdiction and of the High Court.  Take away the need for judges to sit on both civil and jury trials.  In the High Court, especially, it is the ever increasing number of civil matters that mean criminal trials get delayed.

The other point I would make, as I have made elsewhere, is that most jury trials occur becuase the police laid the charges indictably, not because the defendant elected trial.

  • peterquixote
  • November 21st, 2010
  • 9:01 pm

Stephen in a classic example of misunderstanding of the criminal class  says :
" Guilt and remorse should be the norm.
Their absence should be penalised – instead of rewarding what is often false regret."
this is a dream Stephen, you have to wake up to social reality.
remorse is meaningless.
get real.
work out ways to prevent crime

  • markwill
  • June 8th, 2014
  • 4:46 pm

Stephen,why no mention of trials in absentia,when even with a reasonable excuse a defendant can find that the case is proceeded with anyway. New Zealand is a signatory on a range of international human rights charters and conventions yet somehow can opt out of selected aspects. Sure this bill is designed to speed proceedings up, and not having any defence present will speed things up, but at what cost. How come this seems to be accepted so readily by NZ lawyers and others.

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