A New Appeal System For New Zealand Proposed
The establishment of a final appeal Court in New Zealand and a consequent ending of links with the Privy Council are proposed in a discussion paper released today by the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson.
In introducing the paper, Ms Wilson says it is apparent that the Privy Council no longer functions as an effective court of final appeal.
"It is increasingly referring cases back to New Zealand because of the inappropriateness of a foreign court deciding New Zealand cases.
"New Zealanders, including those in the legal profession, have confidence in our own courts.
"Most other former British colonies and Dominions have established their own appeal system, although some small countries such as Kiribati, Jamaica, and Mauritius still rely on the Privy Council".
Ms Wilson says Maori have particular issues about the Privy Council which need to be carefully discussed.
"The appellate system must be one in which all New Zealanders can have confidence and before which all citizens are equal. This means that Maori need to be assured that their interests can be protected by any changes to the New Zealand appeal structure. I encourage Maori to look carefully at the issues and participate in the discussion.
"With few exceptions the individual members of the judicial committee of the Privy Council can be expected to know little of New Zealand or the context in which law specific to New Zealand, including law advancing Maori interests, has developed.
"It is a matter of commonsense to consider having our highest appeal court based in our own land, among our own peoples.
"The government has made no final decision on this issue and has allowed 4 months for public submissions.
" We are looking not to the past but to the decades ahead, and asking if the time has not come for a New Zealand appellate structure to complete New Zealand's long road to independence".
Ms Wilson said that while lawyers, business and Maori groups were the most likely source of submissions on the issue she hoped community organisations and individuals would also take an interest and make their views known.
"An effective appeal system is a cornerstone of our democracy. Everyone is involved in the issue – and everyone should take an interest".
Submissions can be made to: Reshaping New Zealand's Appeal Structure, Crown Law Office, P.O. Box 5012, Wellington. Submissions close on 30 April 2001