A last-minute change to draft legislation in Parliament last night preserved the right of defendants to be present at their own trial and will help ensure that they get a fair go, said the Green Party today.
"It is great to see that the Government has listened to the Green, Labour and Maori parties and protected the right of defendants to be present at their own trial," said Kennedy Graham, Green Party Justice Spokesperson.
The Courts (Remote Participation) Bill would have removed the right of defendants to be physically present at substantive criminal trials. The issue was raised in Select Committee by the Green Party but was ignored by the Government. A Supplementary Order Paper was introduced yesterday by Dr Graham to fix the problem.
After sustained pressure in the debating chamber the Minister of Justice, Simon Power, last night introduced an amendment to the bill that preserves the right of defendants to attend their trial.
"It is only fair that everyone who is accused of a crime has a right to be present when they are tried in court. It is a fundamental tenet of common law and natural justice," said Dr Graham.
This bill would have stripped New Zealand citizens of a basic constitutional right and would have been uniquely shameful legislation, added Dr Graham.
"In many respects the Bill is well-intentioned legislation designed to reduce costs to the justice system. So I am delighted that its fundamental flaw has been addressed and that we will now be able to support it.
"I salute the Minister for his decision to accede to our entreaties. The outcome is a victory for parliamentary democracy."
For more information
Kennedy Graham's Second Reading speech:
Court (Remote Participation) Bill: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2009/0107/10.0/DLM2600709.html
Green Party Supplementary Order Paper: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/sop/members/2010/0150/latest/DLM3067904.html