New sexual violence legislation could pose risk to the right to fair trial, says NZBA

The New Zealand Bar Association expressed concerns with some of the new bill’s provisions

New sexual violence legislation could pose risk to the right to fair trial, says NZBA

The new sexual violence legislation could pose a risk to the right to a fair trial, the New Zealand Bar Association (NZBA) said in a statement that expressed the organisation’s concerns with some of the new bill’s provisions.

Amendments to the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill included changes to the Evidence Act 2006, the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 and Criminal Procedure Act 2011. The proposed changes had the goal of limiting re-traumatisation in victims providing evidence in court.

One modification involved allowing victims to give evidence through either “a video record made before the trial,” “while in the courtroom but unable to see the defendant or some other specified person or “from an appropriate place outside the courtroom, either in New Zealand or elsewhere.”

The NZBA said that the bill was “flawed,” with its primary issue being “the practicalities and fairness of using pre-recorded cross examination of complainants as a standard procedure in cases of sexual violence.”

“The NZBA absolutely supports legislation that can minimise distress caused to complainants through giving evidence in sexual violence cases. However, changes in the way evidence is presented in court cases should not mean a person’s right to a fair trial is compromised,” said Nicolette Levy QC, who is part of the NZBA’s criminal committee.

Levy presented a submission by the organisation to the Select Committee that contained the NZBA’s considerations and commentary on the changes to the sexual violence bill.

“As an independent body within the legal profession, the NZBA has a role to ensure it supports the integrity of the justice system and the legal rights of all New Zealanders,” the organisation said.

In February, the New Zealand Law Society had joined the NZBA in questioning the proposed reforms in the sexual violence bill.

The bill is currently in its second reading before Parliament. It was first introduced in November.

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