Secret trials by stealth

The New Zealand Law Society has pointed out that last-minute changes to the Health & Safety Reform Bill brings in secret court hearings.

The provisions will allow a person to be tried and convicted of a criminal offence without seeing all the information relied on by the Crown and without the right to be present (or to have their representative present) during all the proceedings. This is inconsistent with the fundamental right to a fair trial, the Law Society says.

The Law Society further points out that because these provisions were added at the last minute there has been no Bill of Rights vet and no chance for public consultation.

We share the Law Society's concerns and find that this is an unacceptable breach of the rights guaranteed to New Zealanders in the NZ Bill of Rights Act including:

Everyone who is charged with an offence has, in relation to the determination of the charge, the following minimum rights:
(a) the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial court:
(c) the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law:
(e) the right to be present at the trial and to present a defence:
(f) the right to examine the witnesses for the prosecution and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses for the defence under the same conditions as the prosecution:

These rights are vital to the fairness of our justice system. The thought of being convicted for a crime where you never get to see or challenge the evidence used against you is abhorrent.

We remain opposed to secret laws, secret courts, secret witnesses, and secret evidence. Secrecy should not be allowed to override justice.

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