In 1989 the Law Commission was asked by the Minister of Justice to review procedure in criminal cases. The project is a continuing one. This particular part of the project considers issues surrounding juries in criminal trials. In 1995 we circulated the Juries: Issues Paper as a prelude to a larger discussion document and the final report. The issues paper asked which matters were of primary concern to those who participate in, or work with, the system.
The Law Commission’s reference on criminal procedure has the following purposes:
(1) To ensure that the law relating to criminal investigations and procedures conforms to the obligations of New Zealand under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
(2) To devise a system of criminal procedure for New Zealand that will ensure the fair trial of persons accused of offences, protect the rights and freedoms of all persons suspected or accused of offences, and provide effective and efficient procedures for the investigation and prosecution of offences and the hearing of criminal cases.
With these purposes in mind the Law Commission is asked to examine the law, structures and practices governing the procedure in criminal cases from the time an offence is suspected to have been committed until the offender is convicted, including but not limited to
• powers of entry, search and arrest,
• diversion—principles and procedures,
• decisions to prosecute and by whom they should be made,
• the rights of suspects and police powers in relation to suspects,
• the division of offences into summary and indictable offences,
• preliminary hearings and criminal discovery,
• onus of proof,
• evidence in sexual and child abuse and other special cases,
• payment of costs to acquitted persons, and to make recommendations accordingly.
The criminal procedure reference may be read together with the evidence reference, the purpose of which is:
To make the law of evidence as clear, simple and accessible as practicable, and to facilitate the fair, just and speedy judicial resolution of disputes.
With this purpose in mind the Law Commission is asked to examine the statutory and common law governing evidence in proceedings before courts and tribunals and make recommendations for its reform with a view to codification.