In 2001 the Law Commission issued a study paper titled Simplification of Criminal Procedure Legislation: An Advisory Report to the Ministry of Justice (NZLC SP7). The government responded later that year, and agreed that the Law Commission’s recommendations should proceed. Key proposals in the package agreed to by the government include: amending the existing seven categories of criminal offences to five (including removing the prosecution choice of forum presently provided for in section 6(2) and the First Schedule to the Summary Proceedings Act); eliminating the distinction between summary and indictable offences; repealing the Summary Proceedings Act 1957; and introducing a comprehensive plain-language Criminal Procedure Bill, incorporating criminal procedure provisions from the Crimes Act 1961, District Courts Act 1947, and Summary Proceedings Act 1957 (thus comprising a single New Zealand criminal procedure code). The Law Commission has now been asked to further progress this work, by collaborating on the drafting of the Criminal Procedure (Simplification) Bill.
The Law commission will liaise with the Ministry of Justice and the Parliamentary Counsel Office to reconvene a justice sector interagency working group.
The primary function of the group should be to draft and consult upon a Criminal Procedure Bill to consolidate and clarify criminal procedure provisions from the Crimes Act 1961, the District Courts Act 1947, and the Summary Procedures Act 1957.
Drafting should progress largely in accordance with the Cabinet approvals for this project that were issued in 2001. However, some of the 2001 decisions will need to be reconsidered in light of subsequent developments.
The interagency group will produce an agreed draft bill introduction to Parliament, and should address the following further matters in the course of its work:
- Whether it is necessary or desirable to amend all references to “summary” and “indictable” that appear in the statute book, as a consequence of the Cabinet agreement to abolish the summary/indictable distinction.
- Whether the Criminal Procedure Act should be supplemented by Criminal Procedure Rule; and whether some of the procedural provisions that presently appear in primary legislation could or should be shifted into Rules.
- Whether, and if so how, New Zealand should provide for representatives charges, including whether they should be available in the summary jurisdiction.
- Whether the “middle band” should be abolished or reformed. The middle band comprises cases that may be heard in either the High Court or the District Court, subject to an administrative decision by a High Court judge. It is an innovation that poses significant case management problems.
- The extent to which other changes should be recommended to improve pre-trial criminal processes in the light of earlier Commission reports and the Ministry’s Service Improvement Programme.
- Any other relevant matters that arise