10 Mar 2011

MPs asked to put criminal procedures bill on hold

5:11 pm on 10 March 2011

MPs have been asked to put a bill which makes changes to criminal trials on hold.

The Criminal Procedures Bill is meant to simplify and speed up the criminal justice system and includes a reduction in the threshold under which a defendant can choose a trial by jury.

It also proposes that the defence disclose evidence pre-trial and to have courts proceed with trials if the defendant fails to appear.

On Thursday, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Select Committee was told by the Law Society and the Criminal Bar Association these are fundamental changes.

They said the bill should be deferred until a cross-party debate is held on the criminal justice system, which looks into the role alcohol and mental health problems play in crime.

The Law Society says more debate is needed on the changes and that it is likely there will be many more amendments.

President Jonathan Temm says it is time to have a mature debate about what the criminal justice system is supposed to be doing, including looking at the rights of victims and child witnesses.

MPs were told that political parties should stop gnawing on the criminal justice system like a bone for political gain.