NZLS slams criminal procedures bill

NZ Herald Mar 10, 2011
Changes to the justice system are being made in a piecemeal politically driven way and parties need to start working together to make progress, the New Zealand Law Society president Jonathan Temm says. Mr Temm appeared before Parliament’s justice and electoral committee to make a submission on the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill, which proposed a swathe of law changes. …One specific concern in the bill he raised was a change to only allow cases where a three-year or longer jail term could be imposed to be heard by a jury. That change appeared to be driven by purely financial concerns but there wasn’t even evidence it would save money, he said. In 20 years as a crown prosecutor, then as a defence barrister, he could recall fewer than five jury trials that involved shorter than three-year penalties. National MP Simon Bridges, chair of the committee, said the Government had reviewed justice principles and done comprehensive work before introducing the bill. He argued the right to a fair trial was not diminished just because it was only before a judge and when he was a lawyer had seen cases where there was a jury trial for someone who stole a tennis racquet. Mr Temm said once economic principles became a justification for change that could erode other areas. “You want to change something, tell what is wrong with current right?” The society was concerned there could be serious consequences for some people – for example an MP or city councillor can elect a jury trial for any offence which would result in them losing their job.