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Government supports reforms to improve Courts

Government response supports reforms to improve Court system

The Government has indicated its agreement with many of the recommendations made by the Law Commission in its report on Criminal Pre-Trial Processes, in the Government's response to the report tabled in Parliament today.

The Law Commission report, published in June 2005, made 70 recommendations to reform pre-trial processes for resolving cases or preparing them for trial.

"The planned changes will significantly modernise court procedure, reduce costs, help address delays in hearing cases and improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Courts," Justice Minister Mark Burton said.

"The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved before trial but court procedures have not kept up with the changing demands on the court system," he said.

Among the Law Commission's key recommendations was that there should be early and more comprehensive disclosure of the prosecution case to the defendant. The Government supports this and will give effect to the changes in the Criminal Procedure Bill, which is currently before the House.

The Government also agrees in principle with the Law Commission's recommendations on an expanded role for the Police Prosecution Service, particularly in relation to early charge scrutiny, subject to the undertaking of more detailed design and costing work by Police.

The Government response also included the following:

· The Commission also recommended reforms to the operation of the List Court. The Government has agreed and notes that work on reform in this area is already underway led by the Minister for Courts as part of the significant programme of service improvement funded in the 2005 Budget. · That there should be, on average fewer appearances during the administrative period of cases, which is the time before a judge is normally required to be involved. · The Government has asked officials to consider options for developing and implementing case management processes that provide a targeted response to the needs of different types of cases.

Over a longer period, the Government has also undertaken to give further consideration to a range of proposed legislative changes. These include:

· Formalising sentence indications and discounts for early guilty pleas.

· Providing for Courts to make cost orders against counsel for procedural non-compliance.

· Clarifying when cases can proceed in the absence of a defendant.

The Government will consider more closely the impact of these measures in reducing unnecessary delay in the courts once its proposals to advance targeted case management have been progressed.

The Government carefully considered the report's recommendations and consulted widely in the developing its response to the report.

A copy of the Government response can be found on the Justice Ministry's website at: http://www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports/index.html

ENDS

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