The Law Commission published its report The Second Review of the Evidence Act 2006 – Te Arotake Tuarua i te Evidence Act 2006 in March 2019. The report is the result of the Commission’s two-year review of the operation of the Evidence Act 2006, the legislation governing evidence in civil and criminal cases.
The Commission concluded the Act is generally working well but some improvements are necessary and desirable. The report makes 27 recommendations, including a number of reforms to improve the court process for victims of sexual and family violence:
- There should be tighter controls on admitting evidence of a complainant’s previous sexual experience with the defendant and evidence of a complainant’s sexual disposition.
- Family violence complainants should be entitled to pre-record their evidence (including evidence-in-chief and cross-examination). The Commission has previously made similar recommendations in relation to sexual violence complainants.
- Judges should be required to intervene when questioning of a witness is unacceptable.
- Judicial directions should be developed to address myths and misconceptions that jurors might hold in sexual and family violence cases.
The Commission’s report also includes recommendations to:
- promote greater recognition of tikanga Māori in court procedure;
- ensure that a defendant’s rights to a fair trial are preserved; and
- address practical problems with the operation of the Act.
The Commission consulted extensively with the legal profession, Government agencies, academics and other interested parties. It built on its previous reports The 2013 Review of the Evidence Act 2006 and The Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence.
The Minister of Justice, the Hon Andrew Little, tabled the report in Parliament on 13 March. The report, which includes a draft Evidence Amendment Bill, is available on the Commission’s website.