Justice Minister Andrew Little’s Bill establishing a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) passed its First Reading in Parliament today.
“This Bill is an important commitment by this Coalition Government to provide a much needed safety valve to our criminal justice system. The CCRC will focus on miscarriages of justice and is a direct response to concerns by many New Zealanders over wrongful convictions such as Teina Pora,” Andrew Little said.
“The CCRC will be an independent body which reviews convictions and sentences where there is a suspected miscarriage of justice. It can refer cases back to the appeal courts but it does not determine guilt or innocence. The CCRC will replace the referral power currently exercised by the Governor-General under section 406 of the Crimes Act 1961.
“The CCRC will be able to receive applications from any living convicted person or their representative. The CCRC is also able, where it is in the public interest, to make initial inquiries on its own initiative where it has concerns.
“The CCRC will be required to raise public awareness of its functions to maximise access.
“Other key aspects of the Bill include the test for referring cases back to the courts, the CCRC’s information gathering powers, and the relationship the CCRC will have with the Royal prerogative of mercy.
“The Bill is now with the Justice Select Committee where members of the public can make submissions. I anticipate a lot of interest in the Bill and will consider any improvements that can be made for the CCRC to effectively carry out its functions.
“I agree with what the United Kingdom’s Justice Committee said in 2013 that if a bolder approach leads to five more failed appeals but one additional miscarriage being corrected, then that is of clear benefit for justice,” said Andrew Little.
A copy of the Bill is available: here