Law Commission seeking submissions on Evidence Act

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The Law Commission has started its five yearly review of the Evidence Act 2006. The Commission has released an issues paper and is asking for feedback on a number of issues including giving evidence in sexual and family violence cases.

The Commission is seeking submissions and comments until 15 June 2018.

When the Evidence Act 2006 was enacted, Parliament required the Law Commission to review the Act every five years. The Act was initially reviewed in 2013. The government subsequently made changes through the Evidence Amendment Act 2016 which came in to effect in January 2017. These included amendments to make processes less traumatic for children and victims of sexual offences. At the time, Green MP Jan Logie (now Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence)) welcomed the changes but called them "baby steps", saying there is much more to be done.

It is now time for the second review of the Evidence Act led by the Law Commission. The Terms of Reference for this review include some areas specific to sexual and family violence (see paragraph 4 of the terms).

The Law Commission has published the Issues Paper Second Review of the Evidence Act – Te Arotake Tuarua i te Evidence Act 2006: He Puka Kaupapa. The paper outlines issues with the operation of the Act and possible options for reform. A number of chapters in the Issues Paper relate to sexual and family violence.

Law Commission President Sir Douglas White says:

"The rules of evidence govern who may say what and how in court proceedings and also what documents and material items they may present. The rules of evidence are crucial to fair, just and expeditious proceedings. They are an integral part of the rule of law."

Since the previous review of the Act, the Law Commission has published its report Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence: Criminal Trials and Alternative Processes (2015).

Background information

See our previous stories:

Debate on changes to improve court processes for victims of sexual assault, September 2016

Law Commission publishes report on justice response to victims of sexual violence, December 2015

Bill to make court less traumatic for children and victims of sexual offences, June 2015

Counterintuitive evidence considered "substantially helpful" in child sexual abuse cases, May 2015

Law Commission work on sexual violence trial process reforms to resume, November 2014

Judith Collins announces some changes on giving evidence in sexual offence cases, September 2013

Law Commission recommends law change on complainants' previous sexual history, April 2013

Selected media

Should it be easier to video-record evidence, Press Release: Law Commission, Scoop, 05.04.2018