New Zealand Law Society - Racing Reform Bill penalties raise serious concerns

Racing Reform Bill penalties raise serious concerns

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Penalty provisions in the Racing Reform Bill ignore strong objections from the Ministry of Justice and appear to lack justification, the New Zealand Law Society says.

The Law Society presented a submission on the bill to the Transport and Infrastructure select committee today.

Law Society spokesperson Jason McHerron said the bill contains provisions for collection of offshore betting charges. These allow the Department of Internal Affairs to impose pecuniary penalties on offshore betting operators in certain circumstances.

“The Ministry of Justice has recorded strong objections to these penalty provisions. It says that allowing determinations of liability to be made by non-judicial bodies is irregular and should be strongly discouraged. The regulator, enforcer, and adjudicator should be distinct from one another,” Mr McHerron says.

“The Law Society shares the ministry’s concerns. There has been no response to the ministry’s objections and it is highly unsatisfactory that there has been no attempt at justification.

“The ministry notes that regimes where the regulator determines penalties can also create a perception that the regulator uses penalties to gather revenue. The bill does make some provision for court review of the decision. However, it is also not clear how the review process will operate in practice.

Mr McHerron says the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee’s Legislation Guidelines state clearly that decisions about liability for pecuniary penalties and the amount of the penalty should be made by a court, and not the enforcement agency.

The Law Society recommended that the committee seek an explanation from officials on why the pecuniary penalty provisions have been included against the ministry’s concerns.

The Law Society also said it was hard to see justification for the fast-track nature of the bill. Only four working days had been allowed for interested parties to comment.

“Unrealistic deadlines imposed on the select committee process seriously hinder the public’s input into legislation and the proper scrutiny of bills,” Mr McHerron says.

“The Law Society appreciates the need for a swift legislative response in relation to some bills, but in the present case it is not clear what the justification is for the very truncated consultation period.”

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