Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Law Commission Proposes an End to Judge-Made Contempt Law

EMBARGOED UNTIL 10:00 AM 19 MAY 2014


MEDIA RELEASE 19 May 2014 Hon Sir Grant Hammond KNZM

President

Law Commission

Law Commission Proposes an End to Judge-Made Contempt Law

The Law Commission is seeking feedback on a package of reforms which propose far-reaching changes to the law of contempt in New Zealand.

The Law Commission today released Contempt in Modern New Zealand, its Issues Paper on reforming the common law of contempt. The Issues Paper proposes that judge-made laws of contempt of court be replaced by a more limited and clearer set of legislative provisions that better reconcile protecting the integrity of the justice system and fair trial rights with the importance of freedom of speech.

The President of the Commission, Sir Grant Hammond, said that the purpose of the law of contempt of court is to protect the integrity of the justice system and a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

“The right to trial by jury for serious offences is a cornerstone of the criminal justice system in New Zealand and something we all have an interest in protecting. However, the common law may no longer be the best mechanism for protecting that right.”

Sir Grant says that some of the outdated concepts and language at play in the law of contempt are no longer relevant today. The law predates the Internet age and the enactment of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights, and needs to be updated to address these developments.

In the Issues Paper, the Commission proposes legislative reform to codify contempt of court:

• As a matter of constitutional principle, the scope of New Zealand’s criminal law ought to be determined by Parliament rather than the courts. Contempt of court is now the only criminal offence in New Zealand that is not provided for in statute.

• Over time, the law of contempt has been developed by the courts in a piecemeal fashion as necessary in response to specific situations, which has in turn created a lack of clarity. New Zealand’s laws should be clear and accessible, particularly when a breach of the law could result in a significant fine or incarceration.


Sir Grant says that replacing current common law contempt with statutory offences also enables the public to have a say on the shape of the contempt laws and the values that our laws embody.

Judge Peter Boshier, the Commissioner leading the review, says that the Commission has examined the current law and is proposing for discussion a complete modernisation of contempt.

“In the area of publication contempt, we propose a much more targeted approach to protecting an accused’s right to a fair trial from prejudicial publicity.”

Judge Boshier says that the Commission favours more upfront clarity and precision in this area.

“Rather than leaving decisions over whether to publish potentially prejudicial material solely to publishers, the Commission is suggesting that there should be a clear prohibition on publishing certain prejudicial information for a limited period while there is a trial.”

Judge Boshier stresses that the constraints on freedom of expression during a trial should be kept to the minimum necessary to ensure a fair trial is possible.

“The media has a crucial role to play in not only assisting Police to obtain information about a crime from witnesses and the public, but also in scrutinising Police investigations and in supporting open justice by reporting events.”

The Commission believes greater clarity is needed in the law in this area, and is proposing a statutory offence to replace the current common law test for publication contempt. Judge Boshier says that the current test should be reformulated to draw a much clearer line between permissible comment and publication of material that creates a real risk of prejudicing a fair trial.

The Commission is also seeking the wider public’s views on contempt reforms that affect all citizens called to do jury service. The sentencing last year of an Auckland man for reportedly failing to make himself available for a jury trial highlighted the importance of contempt of court for those serving as jurors.

Judge Boshier says that changes are also needed to modernise the law in this area to better address the risks that jurors accessing material on the Internet or communicating through social media may pose to a defendant’s right to be fairly tried only on the evidence admitted in Court. “We are seeking input from the public on what type of approach we should take in this area.”

The Commission’s Issues Paper also questions whether there are a number of forms of contempt that are now simply outdated and unnecessary, such as “scandalising the court” and civil contempt. Other legal remedies now exist to cover those situations.

The Commission now welcomes any comments or submissions on the Issues Paper. The closing date for submissions is Friday 22 August 2014. The Commission intends to publish its report on the reference in the second half of 2015.

The full Issues Paper, Contempt in Modern New Zealand (IP36, 2014) is available from our website at http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/project/review-contempt-court/issues-paper.

-ENDS-

NZLC_IP36_Media_briefing_UE.pdf

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Populism And Labour 2017

For many people on the centre-left, populism is a dirty word, and a shorthand for the politics of bigotry. In this country, it has tended to be equated with the angry legions of New Zealand First. Who knew they were not just a reactionary spasm, but the wave of the future?

Certainly, at the end of this week, the next US President will have won office (at least in part) thanks to his proven ability at (a) scapegoating refugees and migrants (b) wooing neo-Nazis and racial supremacists (c) attacking journalists and judges (d) threatening to jail his opponents (e) urging nuclear proliferation and (e) by promising to restrict women’s rights to control their own fertility.

On the face of that campaign record, there wouldn’t seem to be much in common between Donald Trump and say, Spain’s centre-left populist party, Podemos. Yet arguably, the similarities could be instructive for the Labour/Green partnership here. More>>

 
 

Oxfam: 30% Of NZ Owns Less Wealth Than Our Two Richest Men

The research also reveals that the richest one per cent have 20 per cent of the wealth in New Zealand, while 90 per cent of the population owns less than half of the nation’s wealth. The research forms part of a global report released to coincide with this week’s annual meeting of political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. More>>

ALSO:

Hospitals: Resident Doctors Set To Strike Again

Despite discussions between the DHBs and NZRDA over safer hours for resident doctors progressing during the last week, the strike planned for next week appears set to proceed. More>>

ALSO:

Not So Super Fund: More Burning Ethical Questions For Steven Joyce

Greens: Radio New Zealand reported this morning that the New Zealand Superfund has $77 million invested in 47 coal companies that the Norwegian Government’s Pension Fund – the largest sovereign fund in the world – has blacklisted. More>>

Activism: Greenpeace Intercepts World’s Biggest Seismic Oil Ship

Greenpeace crew have made contact with the world’s biggest seismic oil ship after travelling 50 nautical miles on two rigid-hulled inflatables off the coast of Wairarapa... Greenpeace radioed the master of the Amazon Warrior to deliver an open letter of protest signed by over 60,000 New Zealanders. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: Why Tax Cuts In 2017 Would Be A (Proven) Bad Idea

Ever since the world fell prey to the mullahs of the free market in the 1980s, no amount of real world evidence has managed dispel one key tenet of their economic faith. Namely, the idea that if you cut income taxes and taxes on small business, a wave of individual enterprise and entrepreneurial energy will thus be unleashed, profits will rise and – hey bingo! – the tax cuts will soon be paying for themselves ... More>>

Liquor Sponsorship: Researchers Call For Ban On Alcohol Sponsorship Of Sport

“Due to alcohol sponsorship of sport, New Zealanders, including children, were exposed to up to 200 ads per hour they watched televised sport, and people watching football and tennis saw alcohol ads for almost half of each game,” says Associate Professor Signal. More>>

ALSO:

Mt Albert: Ardern For Labour, Genter For Greens

At the close of nominations, Jacinda Ardern was the sole nomination received for the position of Labour’s candidate for the Mt Albert by-election, says Labour General Secretary, Andrew Kirton. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news