The Law Commission yesterday recommended a number of changes to the law covering habeas corpus - the writ for a person's release from unlawful detention.
The commission, headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, had been asked by the Government to look at practical difficulties arising from applications for the writ of habeas corpus.
Sir Geoffrey noted the process was a "fundamental bulwark of our constitutional liberties" but the law on it was causing practical problems in the courts.
A commission study paper on the issues is open for submissions until September 17.
Sir Geoffrey said the commission recommended a simpler procedure for dealing with habeas corpus applications 10 years ago, and it was made law in 2001.
He added that experience suggested the act had largely achieved its objective but some practical problems had emerged "including the misuse of the procedure by some applicants to obtain a priority hearing on matters that should be brought by some other procedure such as judicial review".
Among changes now proposed:
* Repeal of the requirement that habeas corpus applications be given precedence over all court business - leaving it to the court to deal swiftly with them but determining relative priorities.
* Giving High Court judges the ability to relax the three-day time frame for the hearing of a writ application if circumstances so require.
* Specific provision for telephone hearings to speed up the procedure.
Such hearings could also be used to avoid the need of unnecessarily transporting prisoners to and from court, the commission said.