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Implications Of Criminal Procedure Legislation Bill

Criminal Procedure Legislation Bill could have wide implications

Proposed technical changes in the Criminal Procedure Legislation Bill will substantially change New Zealand’s criminal procedure if the legislation is not amended, the New Zealand Law Society says.

The Bill is described as non-controversial and necessary to enable the new criminal procedure regime to operate effectively when the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 comes into force on 1 July 2013.

However, the Law Society believes that some of the Bill’s provisions raise concerns that warrant further consideration, Law Society Law Reform Committee member Graeme Edgeler told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee today.

“There are two amendments that would be major changes to criminal procedure, which are not necessary for the proper operation of the Criminal Procedure Act,” Mr Edgeler said.

“The amendment that would allow references to the word ‘crime’ in other enactments to be amended by the Executive will give the government the power to expand some criminal offences by regulation,” Mr Edgeler said.

This amendment could allow innocuous or not-very-serious behaviour when it is committed with intent to commit a fine-only offence, to be punished by imprisonment, the Law Society’s submission on the Bill states.

“The expansion of criminal offences should be made by Parliament. The Law Society believes it is inappropriate to allow the Executive the power to amend serious criminal offences in this way,” Mr Edgeler said.

The Law Society submission also raised concerns the Bill proposed an amendment that would increase the jurisdiction of Community Magistrates.

“The amendment goes beyond a simple correction and is intended to reverse a policy decision made in the principal Act,” Mr Edgeler said.

“The proposed change reverses this, and extends the jurisdiction of Community Magistrates to a range of additional offences, unless specifically excluded by regulation.”

“Whether the jurisdiction of Community Magistrates should be extended in this way is an important policy decision on which the Select Committee should seek advice,” Mr Edgeler said.

ends

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