This project arose from the Commission’s recommendation in their Report, Disclosure to Court of Defendants’ Previous Convictions, Similar Offending, and Bad Character (R103, 2008). The Commission recommended that Government should undertake an inquiry into whether the present adversarial trial process should be modified or replaced with an alternative model, with particular reference to cases involving sexual violence.
In 2012, the Commission completed a preliminary review of the use of alternative pre-trial and trial processes for criminal offending, with a specific focus on sex offences. The Commission published Issues Paper 30 and received a large number of submissions from the public. The project was then put on hold by the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission at the time.
In late 2014, the project was reactivated on request of the current Minister of Justice. The terms of reference for the project have not changed.
The Commission undertakes a high-level review of pre-trial and trial processes in criminal cases. In particular, it considers whether the adversary framework within which those processes operate should be modified or fundamentally changed in order to improve the system’s fairness, effectiveness and efficiency.
The Commission includes within its review an examination of inquisitorial models and considers whether all or any part of such models would be suitable for incorporation into the New Zealand system.
The Commission puts particular emphasis upon the extent to which a new framework and/or new processes should be developed to deal with sex offence cases. However, it also considers the desirability of alternative approaches in other categories of cases, such as those involving child victims, child witnesses and family violence, and considers the extent to which the system needs to be modified more generally.