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Justice Minister moves on year and day rule

Justice Minister Hon Andrew Little’s Crimes Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament today.

“The Crimes Amendment Bill updates the law by repealing three obsolete provisions in the Crimes Act which do not reflect how the criminal law should operate in today’s New Zealand.

“The year and day rule’ and spousal immunity from prosecution for accessory after the fact will be removed. In addition, the offence of blasphemous libel will be repealed.

“These are somewhat minor changes in the context of our criminal law code that should have happened a long time ago. A more thorough review of the Crimes Act is underway but won’t be completed until 2019.

“This Government is committed to ensuring the criminal code in New Zealand is fit for purpose, reflects current attitudes on the place of the criminal law, and does not prevent those who break the law from being held to account.

“The Bill repeals the law which protects people who help their spouse or civil union partners evade justice. This protection creates an anomaly.  It does not apply to other people in close personal relationships who are protecting someone. There is no justification to continue this immunity from prosecution where a person deliberately obstructs justice.

“The Bill repeals ‘Blasphemous Libel’ which has not been prosecuted in New Zealand since 1922 and raises potential Bill of Rights Act concerns.

“This provision is seen by many as an archaic and obsolete provision that has no place in a modern society that protects freedom of expression.

“The Bill also repeals the ‘year and a day rule’ which prevents people from being prosecuted for causing the death of a person who dies after that length of time.

“With advances in medical science and life support machines that may keep victims alive for longer than a year and a day, there is no justification for this rule.  It dates to medieval times and has been repealed in other Commonwealth countries so it’s timely that New Zealand catches up and removes this outdated law.

“The rule, along with a range of other factors, was a potential bar to prosecution in the CTV building collapse following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. In that case the cause of death may have related to faulty building design which occurred many years prior to the building collapse.

“Tidying up criminal law to keep it relevant is paramount to this Government. The Bill has been referred to the Justice Committee for consideration and is open to public submissions,” says Andrew Little.


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