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House of Representatives
20 March 2007
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Criminal Procedure Bill — In Committee


Criminal Procedure Bill

In Committee

Part 1 Crimes Act 1961

KATE WILKINSON (National) : I have to say I thought we would be talking about Part 1 of the Criminal Procedure Bill tomorrow or even, perhaps, next year, seeing that the last reading of this bill was in May 2006.

Simon Power: Why has there been such a delay?

KATE WILKINSON: I am not actually quite sure why there has been a delay. Perhaps it has been languishing with the Conservation (Protection of Trout as a Non-commercial Species) Amendment Bill.

Having said that and in talking in relation to Part 1, I say the biggest problem that we have in relation to this bill relates to the rule relating to double jeopardy. Double jeopardy is a rule that has been deeply engrained and deeply enshrined in our judicial system. It simply provides that a person should not be tried for the same crime more than once. That is on the basis that the State has all its resources and power, and it should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offence, thereby subjecting him or her to embarrassment, expense, and ordeal and compelling that person to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent, that person may be found guilty. The rule against double jeopardy is also found in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Again, that provides that no one who has been finally acquitted, convicted, or pardoned for an offence shall be tried or punished for it again.

Part 1 proposes two exceptions to the rule against double jeopardy. One is known as the tainted evidence or tainted acquittal—whichever one likes to call it—rule. It applies, for example, to evidence that has been obtained through perjury. The second exception relates to new and compelling evidence. I have a Supplementary Order Paper that seeks to amend clause 7 by removing the exception known as the tainted acquittal rule, and narrowing the rule of new and compelling evidence to that obtained only through DNA technology.

The first exception—the tainted acquittal rule—is an exception resulting from one case, a case involving a Mr Moore who was charged and acquitted of murder. He persuaded a witness to give false evidence, leading to his acquittal. He was acquitted, but was later charged and sentenced for perverting the course of justice. It is said that a law change made on the basis of one case makes for bad law. Why do we not simply increase the penalty for perverting the course of justice rather than destroy such a well-established and enshrined principle of our justice system?

Simon Power: The Minister could at least put the newspaper down and listen!

KATE WILKINSON: But the Minister does not understand—I say to Mr Power—things like “tainted acquittal”, “jurisprudence”, “compelling new evidence”, and “perverting the course of justice”. Those phrases are totally unknown to the Minister for Courts. If the punishment is the equivalent of the avoided criminal conviction, then the result is the same without attempting to change a well-established principle of law.

We have had several submissions. When we have the New Zealand Law Society opposing the allowing of a retrial if there is—

Darren Hughes: 60 seconds.

KATE WILKINSON: Thank you—new and compelling evidence, and when the Attorney-General and the Law Commission also oppose it, then one would have thought that this Government might actually give some recognition to those views and perhaps amend the bill to make it at least somewhat workable. It is vital that we preserve the principle of double jeopardy. It is vital, I believe, that the two exceptions to it that are in this bill are severely amended and that my Supplementary Order Paper is passed with due recognition.

This bill is somewhat vexed, apart from the other two areas that I have mentioned, which I will bring up later. The title reflects the focus of the bill, which is about areas of criminal procedure. Those key areas—

  • Progress reported.
  • Report adopted.