Modernised Rules for Proceedings Against Crown
14 December 2015
Hon Sir Grant Hammond KNZM
Commission Recommends Modernised Rules for Proceedings Against the Crown
The Law Commission has today released a Report and draft Bill that modernises the rules for court cases involving the Crown. In The Crown in Court: A Review of the Crown Proceedings Act and National Security Information in Proceedings the Commission recommends a new statute to replace the Crown Proceedings Act 1950.
The Crown Proceedings Act is the statute through which New Zealanders can sue the Crown. The current Act is convoluted and difficult to follow and has not been updated since it was passed in 1950. It is in need of modernisation to reflect the realities of government in the twenty-first century.
The President of the Commission, Sir Grant Hammond, describes the Crown Proceedings Act as “a statute of considerable constitutional significance”.
“Although the Crown Proceedings Act sounds as if it is simply dry ‘lawyer’s law’, it has the important purpose of reflecting New Zealand’s commitment to ensuring that people are able to seek appropriate legal redress against their government. It forms an important pillar of the rule of law,” says Sir Grant.
The recommended statute is not designed to increase the scope of Crown liability, but will better enable the Courts to focus on the allegations made against the Crown. In particular it will make the procedure in tort cases against the Crown easier for both sides because the current barrier to suing the Crown directly will be removed.
Under the current law, the Crown can only be held liable in tort for actions done by a particular employee or official. In cases where harm is caused by a government department as a whole, rather than the actions of an individual, someone harmed by the Crown’s negligence may be left without a remedy. The proposed statute recommended by the Law Commission would address this problem by making it clear that the Crown itself can be held directly liable in tort.
Sir Grant said today that:
“The new statute we have recommended will put the Crown on a much more equal footing with ordinary people when they take a civil case to the courts”.