Law allows retrial after acquittal

Legislation that makes changes to jury trials and depositions hearings was passed by Parliament yesterday.

The Criminal Procedure Bill was introduced in June 2004 and spent many months in a select committee because National objected to a provision that allows written evidence to be used in depositions hearings.

That will avoid witnesses having to give evidence twice, and a compromise was worked out this month that gives people the right to ask for oral hearings if they want them.

The bill allows 11-1 jury verdicts, a Law Commission recommendation, and changes the law on double jeopardy.

Double jeopardy, which means a person can't be tried twice for the same crime, can now be waived in some circumstances.

The exceptions include when compelling evidence has been presented that is likely to lead to conviction, and when an acquittal is found to have been tainted.

The changes in the bill will allow methamphetamine trials to be heard in district courts, to clear the backlog of cases at high courts.

Chief High Court Judge Tony Randerson made an unusual public appeal to Parliament to pass the bill so the backlog could be cleared.

That prompted National Party justice spokesman, Simon Power to arrange a meeting with ministers to find a way around the problem with depositions hearings.

- NZPA

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