Depositions Hearings

The Government’s Criminal Procedure Bill would allow a Judge to decide whether or not there is evidence for a case to go to trial, based solely on written evidence – unless the Judge specifically calls for a depositions hearing.

National and the Law Society are opposed to this. I think it is actually a very laudable idea and worth supporting.

First of all, how often does a case not go to trial because of lack of proof at a depositions hearing? Almost never. Take for example the Sophie Elliott case – the accused was witnessed stabbing her, and was alone in the room with her. There was never ever even a 0.1% chance the case would not go to trial.

I am very mindful of the impact on victims having to sit through both a depositions hearing and a full trial.

The argument against getting rid of depositions hearings (and I welcome lawyers especially to comment) seems to be that they often lead to the accused them pleading guilty and/or doing a plea deal. I’m not convinced these might not happen anyway as there will still be depositions – just written instead of oral.

I’m also comforted by the fact the Judge could have discretion to call for oral depositions if the case was “borderline”. But it appears to me 95% of the cases are not borderline, will clearly go to trial and spending days in court just traumatises the family further, costs money, takes up scarce court time and does little to advance rather than delay justice.

The Law Society submission on the Bill is here. Page 40 has the arguments on this issue. They seem to be against almost every suggested change, and my suspicion is that the defence lawyers wrote the submission 🙂

So I’m puzzled by National’s opposition to the Criminal Procedure Bill. National positions itself as pro-victim and anti-waste. The Press editorial calls for the Bill to be passed, as do I.

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