Friday, September 28, 2018


Our justice system isn't perfect. Whether by overzealousness, incompetence, or downright vindictiveness, our police sometimes prosecute innocent people or present evidence that isn't sufficient for a conviction. The in-built safeguards of the court and jury system don't always work. We all know the names of the victims: Teina Pora. David Bain. David Dougherty. Arthur Allan Thomas. Now, the government is doing something about it:

The Government has moved to establish an independent body tasked with addressing miscarriages of justice.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has introduced a bill to the House which would establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – an independent body for addressing miscarriages of justice.

The establishing of this commission was part of the Labour and New Zealand First Coalition agreement, signed in October last year.

The CCRC will review convictions and sentences where there is a suspected miscarriage of justice in a "timely, fair and independent", manner Little said.

Looking at the bill, the primary function of the Commission will be to investigate cases and refer them back to the courts for a fresh appeal. This is what the UK version does. Unlike the UK, which requires a "real possibility" of such an appeal being successful, the NZ version will have a far more flexible criteria: whenever it is in the interests of justice to do so. They will be required to consider the prospects of success and whether existing appeal rights have been exhausted, but these are merely issues they must have regard to, not conditions for referral. Of course, whether such an appeal will be successful is up to the relevant court - and in the past, they've proven reluctant to correct their own mistakes. But it will still be a massive improvement on the current situation, and one we should welcome.