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Public Concern Over Court Proceedings Addressed

Public Concern Over Court Proceedings Addressed

Courts Minister Rick Barker today said that the government is aware of growing public concern over oral preliminary hearings, and the impact having to give evidence twice can have on the victims of crime.

The Criminal Procedure Bill, currently before the House, seeks to address these concerns by allowing depositions to occur based on written evidence unless a judge deems that it is necessary to hear the depositions orally.

"Recent media reports and public outcry have highlighted just how stressful the oral depositions process can be for the victims of crime. This government is committed to making sure that the victims of crime are not needlessly re-victimised by the system," Mr Barker said.

"By shifting the default position and allowing depositions to be based on written evidence, we can significantly reduce the pressures on victims who have to give evidence, free up court time, and make better use of police and judicial resources.

"Under the current system victims appear twice to give evidence, once during the oral preliminary hearing and then again during the trial. It is clear victims want their day in court, but it is important that we do not drag them through a painful and sometimes traumatic process twice, unless it is absolutely essential.

"Provisions in the Bill will tighten and improve the rules around the pre-trial disclosure of evidence by enshrining in law the concept of full disclosure. This will ensure that a defendant has full opportunity to consider the case against them prior to their trial.

The Criminal Procedure Bill is based on recommendations by the Law Commission and seeks to maximise the efficiency and fairness of the criminal justice system.

"In any year thousands of hours of court time are given over to oral depositions. The potential for huge savings in sitting time by not always conducting oral hearings is obvious. It will make life easier for the police officers and expert witnesses who are required to turn up at court and give evidence, free up judges, and ease scheduling pressures.

"I am sure that most defendants would like to have their cases heard earlier and the changes to oral depositions would speed up the process for them as well," Mr Barker said.

In addition the Criminal Procedure Bill seeks to address public concerns over the current double jeopardy laws and addresses a range of systematic issues relating to criminal procedure.  Currently the Bill is in the Committee of the Whole House stage and the government is working to gather support for the sections relating to oral depositions.


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