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Abolishing Privy Council will weaken common law

Abolishing Privy Council will weaken common law

Abolishing the right of appeal to the Privy Council will weaken the foundations of common law, according to Maxim Institute.

Common law – which still provides the core of our jurisprudence – has been carefully developed and refined over centuries. This is extremely important, as it prevents the law from being “captured” by fashion or fads.

However, Maxim director Bruce Logan says our common law is under considerable threat. To remove the association with the Privy Council will further isolate New Zealand from its legal roots.

The Attorney-General, the Hon. Margaret Wilson, argues that the retention of the Privy Council inhibits the independent development of law in Commonwealth countries and can be viewed as an interference with a country's power to regulate its own jurisdiction.

Apart from the Privy Council, however, New Zealand increasingly permits what may be termed ‘interference’ with its power to regulate its own jurisdiction by another body, the United Nations.

New Zealand is party to roughly 1,450 bilateral treaties with other countries and to 1080 multilateral treaties, a total of just over 2,500. Moreover, we are adding to that list by approximately 40 treaties every year. Rt Hon Justice Sir Kenneth Keith, has observed that this statistic demonstrates the “pervasive effect of international law on our national law”.

Mr Logan says that if we remove the influence of the Privy Council, judges will look even further to the UN to shape New Zealand law than they already do, and the law will increasingly reflect fragmentation and confusion as it is captured by special interest groups.

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