Criminal Cases Review Commission

A surprise inclusion in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement was under Law and Order:

Establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission

This is very good news. National had refused to do it, saying it wasn’t necessary – as Justice Minister both Judith Collins and Amy Adams refused to consider a review commission.

That was disappointing and perhaps odd given that Review body ‘could save NZ millions’.

Where did this come from? It’s not something NZ First campaigned on as far as I’m aware, and I can’t find it in their policies. But they had issued a media release on it a year ago, in October 2016:

Criminal Cases Review Commission Needed

New Zealand First will establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission as soon as it is in a position to do so, says Justice Spokesperson Denis O’Rourke.

“In too many cases in recent years the safety of convictions for serious crimes have been called into question, and ad hoc associations of supporters of those convicted have sought to find ways of having those cases reviewed.

“This is very difficult and very expensive, and as a result the success of such associations in achieving a review often depends on how much money they raise and how much fuss they can make. That is not the way these matters should be dealt with in a modern and effective justice system.

“The government’s refusal to put a permanent commission in place to review appropriate cases is regrettable and demonstrates a lack of commitment to ensure a just and effective system for review.

Yes, that has been very disappointing.

“The Bain and Teina Pora cases have been the most prominent in recent years, and in April 2015 Brian Rudman in the NZ Herald called for a Commission of Inquiry into the conviction of Peter Ellis in the notorious Christchurch Creche affair. This was also rejected by the government. Currently there are other cases where a review may be justified.

“New Zealand should establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) along the lines of the UK one set up in their Criminal Appeal Act 1995. The twelfth report to the House of Commons on that Commission for the year 2014-15, concluded that “the CCRC is performing reasonably well, with areas for improvement identified” and “the Commission needs to be given the resources and the powers it requires to do perform its job effectively”.

“The report recorded that the CCRC had achieved a 70% success rate of its referrals and recommended additional powers concerning access to official documents and other material and to information held by private bodies, which could assist in investigations. The report also made a major recommendation “that the CCRC take advantage of its unique position and develop a formal system for feeding back into the criminal justice system on the causes of miscarriages of justice”.

“It is therefore obvious that New Zealand could and should use the UK legislation and experience to inform similar legislation for a Criminal Cases Review Commission here. Such a Commission should have the power to investigate cases on its own initiative, or when referred to it by the Attorney-General or by resolution of parliament in response to a petition.

“The Commission would be empowered to refer cases for reconsideration to the Court of Appeal, the grounds for doing so being the same as in section 13 of the UK Act, where the Commission “considers that there is a real possibility that the conviction, verdict, finding or sentence would not be upheld were the reference to be made”.

I posted about it in June last year: Criminal Cases Review Commission

From the New Zealand Police Conduct Association: Criminal Cases Review Commission

Jacinda Ardern supported one as Labour’s Justice Spokesperson in June 2015: Pora case a case to learn from

Conformation that Teina Pora will receive $2.5million from the Crown for more than 20 years of wrongful imprisonment does not fix the flaws in our system that led to this miscarriage of justice, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“The result today, and the decision by the Privy Council last year to quash Teina Pora’s convictions, came about only after a legal team volunteered thousands of hours to his case.

“Minister Amy Adams claims the end result proves the system worked. That is incorrect. Justice must be timely.

“This case is further proof that we need an Independent Criminal Case Review Commission – a mechanism to look at cases like this, and refer them back to the Appeal Court.

Back in 2013 before he became leader Andrew Little also called for a review commission: Labour calls for body to investigate miscarriages of justice

The Labour Party is calling for an independent review commission to be set up, as further information comes to light suggesting a possible miscarriage of justice in the Teina Pora case.

Labour’s justice spokesperson Andrew Little says information revealed in a TV3 investigation shows police officers had doubts about Pora’s responsibility for the crime.

He says in such cases further investigations need to be carried out by an impartial body.

Mr Little says this country needs a standing commission independent of the police, judiciary or Ministry of Justice to look at instances of miscarriage of justice, along the lines of the United Kingdom’s criminal cases review commision.

He says work looking into setting up a such a body by the previous Labour-led government needs to be continued to ensure public confidence in the justice system.

So the last Labour Government had done preliminary work on setting one up.

It’s curious how this ended up in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement given that it isn’t listed as an NZ First policy and I can not remember and can find no sign of Winston Peters or NZ First or Labour campaigning on it, but regardless of how it got there it is a welcome inclusion.


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  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th October 2017

    At last a policy I can support with the proviso I don’t have much confidence in the Court of Appeal. It’s record on correcting injustice is poor.

    • Gezza

       /  25th October 2017

      I still believe that bailing or releasing violent criminals with “likely to reoffend” psych assessments early on appeal only to streets where judges live should be a legal requirement.

  2. Trevors_elbow

     /  25th October 2017

    The Media will LOOOOVVVEEEE this… trial by media … crusading for justice

    Worthwhile but it will become a political and media circus as the worth cases get mixed up with those that are not….

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  25th October 2017

      I don’t see why it would not be better than what happens at present which is entirely dependent on the media to make a fuss. Surely this will mean less media dependence?

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  25th October 2017

        I hope you’re right Alan…. but I see a new way of questioning legal decisions as just another way for applying pressure to the government of the day…

  3. Great result.
    Anyone who wants to know the arguments for a CCRC should read Justice Thorpe’s inquiry into Miscarriages of Justice in NZ – sorry i can’t recall the year. It is an excellent and informative read.
    In reply to Trevor above – some of the worse miscarriages of justice in NZ occurred in part because of the way that police manipulated the media prior to actually charging their foreshadowed suspect. The Scott Watson case is a very good example of that.

    • Gezza

       /  25th October 2017

      Welcome! A voice of reason!

    • Trevors_elbow

       /  25th October 2017

      No doubts there have been great injustices but we will see whether this functions as it should or is just another place for polirical activism and grandstanding


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