New Zealand Law Society - 'Year and a day' provision to be removed from Crimes Act

'Year and a day' provision to be removed from Crimes Act

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government will remove the 'year and a day' rule in the Crimes Act 1961 to ensure it no longer prevents those who break the law from being held to account.

Section 162 of the Act states that no-one is criminally responsible for the killing of another "unless the death takes place within a year and a day after the cause of death". The time is calculated inclusive of the day on which the last unlawful act contributing to the cause of death took place.

“I made an undertaking to the families of the CTV building collapse when I met them that changes needed to be made so that those whose actions lead to tragedies, can still be prosecuted no matter what length of time has elapsed,” Ms Ardern says.

“I know this won’t help those families, but this law change will help ensure that those who face similarly tragic circumstances will not be prevented from seeing justice done.

She says the ‘year and a day’ provision was referenced as one of the factors taken into account in the decision not to prosecute anyone over the CTV building collapse. In that instance the building design occurred many years earlier, in fact, in 1986.

“This provision has already been abolished in most like-minded jurisdictions including the United Kingdom through the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, Ireland, Canada and most Australian states.

“It has also become obsolete because of medical advances that keep people alive for longer than a year and a day.

“This is the right thing to do so those who do break the law in these circumstances can no longer escape prosecution,” Ms Ardern says.