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Crimes (Criminal Appeals) Amendment Bill - Goff

Crimes (Criminal Appeals) Amendment Bill - Phil Goff

Justice Minister Phil Goff today responded to criticism of the Crimes (Criminal Appeals) Amendment Bill.

"The cases currently before the courts have highlighted ambiguities in the law governing the procedure in the Court of Appeal where criminal appeals are dealt with "on the papers" (i.e. without oral hearing) once legal aid is declined.

"There is currently some concern that the provisions of the Crimes Act 1961 and the Court of Appeal (Criminal) Rules 1997, which govern the procedure for appeals in the Court of Appeal, are ambiguous about whether the Court may determine appeals "on the papers. These ambiguities need to be addressed urgently to ensure certainty around the procedure for dealing with criminal appeals," Mr Goff said.

"The aim of this Bill is to reform and clarify the case management procedure for criminal appeals. It empowers the Court of Appeal to hear and determine cases through consideration of written submissions alone. The legislation will, however, require the Court to issue reasons for every decision, whether made on the papers or via a hearing.

"The Bill also validates those decisions that have been made by the Court of Appeal under the current legislative framework. It will not, however, have any effect on the cases that are currently before the Privy Council and High Court. This is consistent with constitutional principle.

"The Bill has been assessed for compliance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The Solicitor-General advises that in his opinion the Bill complies.

"Without the validation provisions there is a risk that hundreds, if not thousands, of earlier Court of Appeal decisions would possibly need to be re-heard. Advice from both the Ministry of Justice and the Solicitor-General is that it is unlikely that the procedures that have been adopted by the Court of Appeal under this framework have resulted in a miscarriage of justice, or have otherwise resulted in prejudice to individual appellants.

"The provision does not affect the rights of an individual appellant to appeal to the Privy Council, or to make an application to the Governor-General for exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy, to show that there was a substantive error in relation to his or her case.

The legislation confirms the rights of appellants to be represented at criminal appeals before the Court of Appeal, and contains provisions enhancing the current protections available to appellants," concluded Mr Goff.


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