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Don't Throw The Court Baby Out

Don't Throw The Court Baby Out

Wednesday 17 March 2004

Stephen Franks - Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Courts Spokesman Stephen Franks today urged the Government not to ignore all of the Law Commission's `vision' for the courts, and reiterated his view that the report does contain some sensible suggestions.

"The poll-driven Government will sense widespread objections, and could throw the baby out with the bathwater - discarding the entire report, rather than adopting its sensible suggestions," Mr Franks said.

"The Commission's sensible suggestions include:

· Better facilities and respect for victims - though no rights for victims to tell the court what they think should happen, though the Commission wants courts to hear more from criminals' whanau

· Guiding principles for restorative justice, and enforcement powers Justice Minister Phil Goff rejected in 2002, so that restorative justice is not just a soft touch

· New police caution procedure - but not wiping the record of it after two years

· Simplified procedures for filing and scheduling civil claims, including debt enforcement

· Encouraging judges to make `wasted costs' orders against lawyers who cause unnecessary cost - but not routine full reimbursement to the successful party

· Restrictions on the abused right to discovery of opponents' documents

· Requiring Disputes Tribunal hearings to be open, and that referees be legally qualified

· Specialisation for High Court judges to take advantage of special skills and interests

"The performance data in Part 9 and Appendix D is puzzling. Average case delays and hearing times increased, even as case numbers dropped. There are recommendations to consider whether some offences could be dropped or reclassified as infringements, but the report doesn't consider whether part of the caseload is the result of more flexible, discretionary, law.

"Caseloads might be reduced to the low levels enjoyed by earlier New Zealanders if we'd kept their commitment to more certain and predictable rules," Mr Franks said.


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