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The vice-president of the New Zealand Law Society says the Justice Reform Bill will set up an "efficient regime totalitarians dream about".

Anne Stevens said last night it showed a complete lack of respect for the rule of law and defendants' rights.

The bill breached the Bill of Rights in most of its most significant proposals.

She was particularly concerned about clauses that would allow a court to proceed if it was not satisfied about the defendant's excuse for absence.

"It would be quite an event with no accused. There'd just be a prosecutor and a judge. That's the sort of efficient regime totalitarians dream about."

The right to be tried by a jury on crimes with a maximum penalty of imprisonment of three months was also guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

"We are talking about people's rights and liberty here. It's all very well until you are accused of something."