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Courts and Criminal Matters Bill Summary

Courts and Criminal Matters Bill Summary

What Does the Courts and Criminal Matters Bill Do?

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WHAT DOES THE COURTS AND CRIMINAL MATTERS BILL DO?

The Courts and Criminal Matters Bill authorises:

- The interception of serious reparation or fines defaulters at international airports. These defaulters will be arrested and brought before a District Court Registrar or District Court Judge if they do not immediately pay their reparation or fines.

- Silent alerts to be triggered at international airports when fines defaulters travel and for these defaulters' contact details to be provided to the Ministry of Justice by the Department of Labour (Immigration) from the departure and arrival cards to facilitate fines enforcement.

- Prosecuting authorities such as the Police and local authorities to electronically file unpaid infringements such as speeding and parking tickets with the District Court from 1 March 2007. This replaces the current requirement to file a paper copy of the reminder notice.

- The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) to release a wider range of information to a District Court Registrar following a request for information about a specific defendant.

- The release of information about defaulters' employers through the regular electronic data match with IRD.

- Deputy Registrars and bailiffs employed by the Ministry of Justice Collections Unit to enforce fines imposed by the High Court as well as the Police.


Victims
The Bill specifies that when an offender owes reparation to more than one victim and is unable to pay in full, payments must be applied on a first in time basis. This means that the oldest sentence must be fully paid before any payments are applied to later sentences.

Enforcement Procedures
The Bill makes a number of minor changes to reparation and fines enforcement procedures. For example, it:

- authorises the publication of defaulters' details in any newspaper instead of only a local newspaper

- reduces the threshold for a charging order from unpaid fines or reparation totaling $10,000 to one or more fines or reparation totaling $5,000.

It also gives employees, who owe fines or reparation, greater protection against adverse action being taken against them by their employers after they learn about these penalties.

Civil Debt Enforcement
The Bill also makes some minor changes to civil debt enforcement procedures. For example, bailiffs can now take bail bonds if a judgment debtor has been arrested and a Judge or Registrar is not available to hear the case.

WHY WAS THE BILL DIVIDED INTO NINE AMENDMENT ACTS INSTEAD OF BECOMING THE COURTS AND CRIMINAL MATTERS ACT 2006?

In order to implement the initiatives described above, amendments had to be made to nine principal Acts - the Crimes Act 1961, the Customs & Excise Act 1996, the District Courts Act 1947, the Immigration Act 1987, the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 1978, the Privacy Act 1993, the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 and the Tax Administration Act 1994.

The Courts and Criminal Matters Bill was an omnibus Bill that enabled these Acts to be amended by one Bill instead of nine separate bills. At the final parliamentary stage, the Courts and Criminal Matters Bill was divided into nine separate amendment Bills.

The amendments that were made in each Bill are outlined below.

The Customs & Excise Amendment Act 2006, the Immigration Amendment Act 2006 and the Privacy Amendment Act 2006 authorise the exchange of information between the Ministry of Justice, the New Zealand Customs Service and the Department of Labour (Immigration) that is necessary to implement interceptions and silent alerts for reparation and fines defaulters at international airports.

The Summary Proceedings Amendment Act 2006 authorises:

- fines enforcement to be undertaken on the 24/7 basis that airports operate

- the electronic filing of unpaid infringements from 1 March 2007

- MSD and IRD to release more information to the Ministry of Justice following a request for information about a reparation or fines defaulter

- a wide range of minor changes to streamline infringement and enforcement procedures.


The Summary Proceedings Amendment Act 2006 also consequentially amends several other Acts under which infringement regimes have been established, to reflect new infringement procedures such as electronic filing.

The Tax Administration Amendment Act 2006 authorises IRD to release more information to the Ministry of Justice through the existing electronic data match.

The Crimes Amendment Act 2006 and the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2006 authorise Collections staff to enforce fines imposed by the High Court under these Acts as well as the Police.

The Sentencing Amendment Act 2006 specifies the priority order for the payment of reparation to multiple victims of one offender when payments are being made in installments.

The District Courts Amendment Act 2006 authorises minor changes to civil debt enforcement procedures.


ENDS

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