New Zealand Law Society - Military justice bill introduced

Military justice bill introduced

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Defence Minister Mark Mitchell has introduced the Military Justice Amendment Bill to Parliament. The bill is intended to update and better align the military justice system with the criminal justice system.

If passed the bill would amend the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971, the Court Martial Act 2007 and the Court Martial Appeals Act 1953.

One of the key elements in the bill is insertion of a new part, Part 10A, into the Armed Forces Discipline Act. This incorporates recognition of victims' rights into the military justice system in accordance with part 3 of the Victims Rights Act 2002.

Mr Mitchell says this will ensure that victims of specified offences have rights and protections in the military justice system that are equivalent to those that they would receive in the civilian system.

“The bill also repeals a provision of the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971 that places the onus of proof for defence of a specific charge on to the accused," he says.

“This brings military proceedings into line with those in the civilian courts, where the onus is on the prosecution to prove the accused is guilty.”

The bill also amends some aspects of the procedure of the Court Martial of New Zealand. This includes aligning the provisions governing whether an accused is unfit to stand trial in the military justice system, and the steps associated with that determination, with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003.

It would repeal section 3(2) of the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971, which provides that the onus is on the accused to prove, on the balance of probabilities, any excuse, exception, exemption, or qualification that the accused relies on as a defence to a charge