Justice Minister Andrew Little has introduced the Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill to Parliament.
The Bill establishes the Criminal Cases Review Commission, to review convictions and sentences and decide whether to refer them to the appeal court.
This will replace the power currently exercised by the Governor-General under section 406 of the Crimes Act 1961. The Commission is established as a new independent Crown entity, with a membership of no fewer than 3 but no more than 7 Commissioners.
Mr Little says the key aspects of the Bill are:
- The test that a case must meet to be referred by the Comission to the appeal court
- The power that the Commission has to access information, the way this power interacts with existing privileges, and the circumstances when the Commission may disclose this information
- The interaction between the Commission and the residual Royal prerogative exercised by the Governor-General
- The Commission’s powers to undertake inquiries into practice, policy, procedure, or other matters it considers to be related to miscarriages of justice
- The ability for the Commission to make its own initial inquiries into a conviction or sentence.
The bill empowers the Commission to:
- Receive applications from eligible persons or their authorised representatives.
- Carry out the activities it considers necessary to make its functions known to, and understood by, the public.
- Have the ability to undertake initial inquiries into a conviction or sentence on its own motion.
- Undertake thematic inquiries into a practice, policy, procedure or other general matter it considers to be related to miscarriages of justice.
- Have reasonable powers to obtain information relevant to the investigation from any person.
- Regulate its own policies and procedure in a manner that is consistent with the rules of natural justice.
- Appoint specialist advisers to give advice in relation to scientific, technical, or other matters involving particular expertise.
As with previous legislation establishing independent investigative bodies, the bill is designed to be brought into force by Order in Council once the Commission itself is able to operate effectively. That will happen when the necessary appointments have been made, Parliament has appropriated funds to the Commission, and other key implementation decisions have been settled. The bill states that the intention is for these matters to be resolved by July 2019.
The Ministry of Justice has produced a departmental disclosure statement on the bill and a regulatory impact assessment.