December 4, 2020

Criminal Cases Review panel starts work in Hamilton

The new independent body to review miscarriages of justice, Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has started work in Hamilton yesterday, 1 July.

The Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, alongside New Zealand First Deputy Leader and Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau, launched the CCRC, or Te Kāhui Tātari Ture, that will act as a “safety valve” against alleged wrongful convictions.

“The launch of the CCRC today is a significant milestone in New Zealand’s justice system…Even though we have appeal rights and safeguards against unsafe convictions, from time to time our justice system does get things wrong. The design of the CCRC is based on international best practice, and is an important safety valve against wrongful convictions,” Justice Minister Andrew Little said.

Minister of Justice, Andrew Little at CCRC opening

“Anyone who believes they have been wrongly convicted or sentenced will be able to apply to the CCRC for a review of their case. Establishing the Commission was a commitment in the 2017 Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement,” he added.

The CCRC, headed by chief commissioner Colin Carruthers QC, is an independent Crown Entity that will review criminal convictions and sentences where there is a claimed miscarriage of justice. It can refer cases back to the Court of Appeal, but it does not determine guilt or innocence.

This function will replace the referral function, currently performed by the Governor-General, part of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

Jamie Strange with other dignitaries
Jamie Strange (L) with other dignitaries present at opening of CCRC in Hamilton

The Board is made up of Deputy Chief Commissioner Paula Rose QSO OStJ, Kingi Snelgar, Tangi Utikere JP, Nigel Hampton CNZM OBE QC, Professor Tracey McIntosh (Ngāi Tahu) and Dr Virginia Hope MNZM.

Decision to house the Commission in Hamilton demonstrates the Commission’s independence from perceived or real political interference from government and judiciary institutions in Auckland and Wellington.

“The Commission will enable our justice system to address concerns – expressed over a number of years – about the independence, timeliness, quality and fairness of investigations into claimed miscarriages of justice,” Andrew Little said.

New Zealand First has also welcomed the launch of CCRC.

“The commission will substantially improve New Zealand’s system for responding to miscarriages of justice, in a timely, fair and independent way, therefore taking away some of the burden from applicants who require assistance to have their voices heard,” Fletcher Tabuteau said.

Among other dignitaries, Jamie Strange, Labour List MP based in Hamilton, was also present.

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