Call for new independent authority on miscarriages of justice

Source: Labour Party – Press Release/Statement:

Headline: Call for new independent authority on miscarriages of justice

The government should be seriously considering setting up an independent body to deal with claims of miscarriage of justice rather than burying its head in the sand on the issue, the Labour Party says.

The dean of the University of Canterbury law school has today called for the establishment of an independent body to deal with allegations of miscarriage of justice. At the moment, such claims are handled under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy process which is managed by the Ministry of Justice.

“An independent body like the Criminal Cases Review Commission which they have in England and Scotland and which is dedicated to investigating claims of wrongful conviction and miscarriage of justice would be another safety valve for the justice system and would mean victims of serious crime do not suffer years of doubt about whether the right offender has been caught,” Labour’s justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

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“Cases going back as far as Arthur Allan Thomas and as recent as Mark Lundy, and including Teina Pora in between, could all have benefitted from a criminal cases review commission.

“The reality is that things can go wrong in a trial and juries can get things wrong, and the appeal process can sometimes allow too narrow an opportunity to challenge what has gone wrong at trial.

“I visited the Criminal Cases Review Commissions in both England and Scotland recently and I have seen the benefit of having a body solely focussed on miscarriage issues rather than the system we have at the moment which is absorbed into the huge Ministry of Justice, the body also responsible for administering the justice system generally.

“The part of the equation often overlooked is the interest victims have in an effectively functioning justice system, and they want to know that the person convicted of the crime against them or their family is certain and secure. A criminal cases review commission offers a safety valve that reduces the chances of wrongful convictions hanging around for years.”

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  1. A system is only as good as its checks and balances. When there is doubt or relevant information pertaining to the case which was not presented at trial, the person convicted has a right to be heard.

    When a person is seen by a specialist medical clinician, they have an expectation that they will be diagnosed and treated. I realise that a specialist knows most things but they do not know everything in their speciality field of medicine.

    A person in this position has two main options:

    1. Seek a second, third, fourth opinion.
    2. Go away and die quietly.

    When an innocent person is convicted of a crime they did not commit they have two main options:

    1. To exhaust all the appeal processes.
    2. To do the time.

    No one should have to go away and die quietly or do the time for a crime they did not commit.

    In NZ a medical specialist has to be very careful when a person presents with a uncommon progressive and systemic condition e.g limited or diffuse scleroderma because they need to know how to manage a life threatening complication which may be unexpected and sometimes may occur suddenly.

    Who has the better appeal process, the person being overlooked who has a life threatening condition which is not being diagnosed and or treated or the innocent person who is left to rot in prison?

  2. I encourage and support a Labour led coalition to proceed with such an initiative. We desperately need such a Commission as it is patently unjust to rely on the good will of private individuals to undertake campaigns to review potential miscarriages of justice.

    New Zealand’s record on such miscarriages is shameful – but even more shameful that nothing has been done about it.

    All I can say is, thank gods we have no capital punishment.

    Otherwise too many dead men – innocent of any crimes – would be lying in their graves.

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