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Criminal Cases Review Commission Needed

Criminal Cases Review Commission Needed

New Zealand First will establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission as soon as it is in a position to do so, says Justice Spokesperson Denis O’Rourke.

“In too many cases in recent years the safety of convictions for serious crimes have been called into question, and ad hoc associations of supporters of those convicted have sought to find ways of having those cases reviewed.

“This is very difficult and very expensive, and as a result the success of such associations in achieving a review often depends on how much money they raise and how much fuss they can make. That is not the way these matters should be dealt with in a modern and effective justice system.

“The government’s refusal to put a permanent commission in place to review appropriate cases is regrettable and demonstrates a lack of commitment to ensure a just and effective system for review.

“The Bain and Teina Pora cases have been the most prominent in recent years, and in April 2015 Brian Rudman in the NZ Herald called for a Commission of Inquiry into the conviction of Peter Ellis in the notorious Christchurch Creche affair. This was also rejected by the government. Currently there are other cases where a review may be justified.

“New Zealand should establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) along the lines of the UK one set up in their Criminal Appeal Act 1995. The twelfth report to the House of Commons on that Commission for the year 2014-15, concluded that “the CCRC is performing reasonably well, with areas for improvement identified” and “the Commission needs to be given the resources and the powers it requires to do perform its job effectively”.

“The report recorded that the CCRC had achieved a 70% success rate of its referrals and recommended additional powers concerning access to official documents and other material and to information held by private bodies, which could assist in investigations. The report also made a major recommendation “that the CCRC take advantage of its unique position and develop a formal system for feeding back into the criminal justice system on the causes of miscarriages of justice”.

“It is therefore obvious that New Zealand could and should use the UK legislation and experience to inform similar legislation for a Criminal Cases Review Commission here. Such a Commission should have the power to investigate cases on its own initiative, or when referred to it by the Attorney-General or by resolution of parliament in response to a petition.

“The Commission would be empowered to refer cases for reconsideration to the Court of Appeal, the grounds for doing so being the same as in section 13 of the UK Act, where the Commission “considers that there is a real possibility that the conviction, verdict, finding or sentence would not be upheld were the reference to be made”.

ENDS


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