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Barker: New Regulations To Help Get P Cases Moving

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

21 July 2008 - Courts Minister Rick Barker has today outlined regulatory changes resulting from the Criminal Procedure Act aimed at freeing up High Court sitting time.

Regulations which came in effect on Friday 18 July mean that Class A drug cases, including methamphetamine cases, can now be heard in the District Court, instead of always being sent to the High Court.

"P or meth is a scourge in our communities and it is also a significant load on court resources and sitting time," Mr Barker said.

"The passing of the Criminal Procedure Bill has enabled the government to enact regulations which will give the judiciary greater flexibility in deciding where meth cases should be heard."

As of May this year, roughly half of the criminal cases awaiting trial in the High Court were methamphetamine related cases. The changes made will allow for less complex and lower end Class A drug offences to be heard in the District Court.

"This will free up High Court time to deal with more serious and complex cases both in the criminal and civil jurisdictions including some more serious sexual violence and serious violence cases which are currently being dealt with at a District Court level."

In 2003 methamphetamine was reclassified from a Class B to a Class A drug to reflect health and social harm caused to individuals and communities as a result of the use of this drug.

"Classifying P as a Class A drug reflected the government's and the communities concern over its devastating impact on New Zealand society. However, this had a major impact on the ability of these cases to move through the court system. This regulation change is one part of a wider process of reform to address this issue. I am confident that this change, alongside the other changes in the Criminal Procedure Bill will result in better access to justice for all New Zealanders.

"The changes made do not mean that P and other class A drug offending is being treated any less seriously. The sentencing options available to judges and the classification have not changed.

"All Class A drug cases will still be committed to the High Court first. A High Court judge will make the decision about whether a case should be returned to the District Court for trial or be retained by the High Court. The intention is that the more serious cases involving importation and multiple accused will generally be heard in the High Court, and less complex cases will be returned to the District Court," Mr Barker said.

The Regulations include a transitional provision, which allows cases that have been committed to the High Court and are awaiting the commencement of a trial to be re-committed to the District Court. New cases received by the High Court after Friday 18 July will be able to be referred to the District Court on a decision from a High Court Judge.

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