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Labour opposed to increased audio video use in courts

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
David Parker
David Parker

Wellington, June 2 NZPA - Labour will oppose a bill allowing for the greater use of audio video links in courts, saying it denies defendants their fundamental civil liberties.

The Courts (Remote Participation) Bill is the first of several the Government intends introducing to modernise and speed up criminal court procedure.

Justice Minister Simon Power said greater use of video links would improve court efficiency, increase safety and security, increase access to justice and improve the quality of evidence heard in courtrooms.

Labour supported the bill through its first reading, but shadow attorney-general David Parker said following select committee hearings the party endorsed submissions from the New Zealand Law Society and Human Rights Commission saying it invokes significant human rights.

"While Labour agrees that some preliminary hearings, such as remands, can sometimes be held by audio visual conference without prejudicing the accused, we are strongly opposed to rights of the accused being eroded in substantive hearings." Mr Parker said.

He said there was no evidence of trials being frustrated by current rules. "An accused person should have the right to attend their own trial."

Mr Power said, when the bill was first heard in Parliament, that it meant counsel and defendants, and even judges and juries, could appear by video link. But it allowed the court to decide when it was appropriate to use audio visual links.

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