New Zealand Law Society - Lack of consultation on rustling law concerns

Lack of consultation on rustling law concerns

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New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck has written to the Minister of Justice to express concern that legislation creating significant new criminal offices related to livestock rustling has been progressed without the opportunity for public consultation and select committee activity.

"In the Law Society's view, this is an undesirable and unjustified departure from the usual consultation process for legislative reform," she says.

Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced a Supplementary Order Paper on 12 December 2018 to amend the Crimes Amendment Bill. This was a day after the bill had received a second reading and well after the select committee had reported on the bill in late September.

Until the supplementary order paper, the bill contained no provisions related to livestock rustling and was focused on amending three provisions in the Crimes Act 1961 on accessories after the fact, blasphemous libel, and a requirement relating to the time in which a death must occur to be subject to criminal sanctions.

"We appreciate the government's desire to address the harms arising from theft of livestock but consider there is insufficient justification for amendment the [bill] via supplementary order paper at a late stage in the bill's passage through the House," Ms Beck says.

Her letter notes that the Law Society was consulted on a limited basis on the proposed new offences. This was a confidential consultation at short notice, and the specific wording of the offences was not provided.

"The Law Society submitted that the new offences should be introduced via a new bill, rather than via SOP. In our view the proposed offences are a significant extension of the current law, and the appropriate avenue for making the legislative changes is through the introduction of a bill to allow for public consultation with relevant stakeholders including the legal profession and select committee consideration."

Ms Beck says the new offences are a significant extension of the current law and should be the subject of public submission and debate.

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