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Public submissions on criminal procedure called for

Hon Simon Power Minister of Justice

24 November 2010

Media Statement

Public submissions on criminal procedure called for

Justice Minister Simon Power welcomes public submissions on a bill which contains the biggest changes to criminal procedure in decades.

The 526-page Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill, which contains the changes, was sent to select committee today after it passed its first reading in Parliament.

Mr Power said the bill is designed to simplify and speed up the criminal justice system, while ensuring that a defendant’s right to a fair trial is maintained.

“Justice delayed is justice denied and building more courthouses and appointing more judges is no longer the way to address inefficiencies in the system.

“It’s unacceptable to victims, it’s unacceptable to witnesses, and it’s unacceptable to defendants that it’s taking an average of 12 months to complete a trial in the District Court and 16 months in the High Court.”

The significant proposals in the bill include:

  • Requiring the defence to identify and disclose issues in dispute before a trial.

  • Allowing courts to proceed in the absence of a defendant if the court is not satisfied the defendant has a reasonable excuse for their absence.

  • Requiring the court to take into account a defendant’s compliance with procedural matters as a mitigating or aggravating factor at sentencing.

  • Allowing the court to impose cost orders if it’s satisfied any party has failed, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a procedural requirement.

  • Allowing greater flexibility to continue with a trial when jury numbers fall to 10.

  • Ensuring guilty pleas are entered as early as practicable to help avoid unnecessary delay.

  • Promoting out-of-court discussions between parties so there are fewer adjournments and shorter hearings.

  • Raising the threshold for a defendant electing a jury trial from crimes carrying a penalty of more than three months’ to those carrying more than three years' imprisonment.
  • Mr Power said the changes have the potential to free up 16,000 court sitting hours each year by delivering benefits which include:

    • 43,000 fewer court events.

    • 1,000 to 1,400 fewer cases that need to be designated for trial by jury.

    • 300 to 600 fewer cases that actually proceed to a jury trial.

    • Shaving about 13 weeks off the time it takes for a jury trial case in the District Court or High Court to go through the pipeline from the time charges are laid to completion.

    • Savings of about $24.3 million over a five-year period.

    The bill repeals most of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 and consolidates other provisions relating to criminal procedure.

    Previous announcements on the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill, including the Cabinet papers and fact sheets, can be found here.

    ENDS

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