The government is working to improve Evidence Act 2006 following the Law Commission’s second review of the act tabled in Parliament earlier this month, according to Justice Minister Andrew Little.
“The government accepts the Law Commission’s conclusion that the act is generally working well, but that some improvements are needed,” Little said. “This includes ensuring that the act works better for certain groups, such as complainants and witnesses in sexual violence and family violence cases. Sexual and family violence is taken very seriously by this government, and we are already progressing six of the Law Commission’s recommendations relating to this, in whole or in part. These will be included in legislation to be introduced later this year.”
The government has also accepted a further 12 recommendations made by the commission, including that the Evidence Regulations 2007 act must be modernised, Little said.
“These changes will help us towards our overall goal of reforming and improving the justice system for all of the participants within it,” Little said.
In its report published in March, the commission made a total of 27 recommendations, almost all of which involve amendments to the act. The government said that changes that do not involve legislative change provide for making more effective use of existing provisions of the act, or judicial guidance in bench books. Many recommendations, the government said, are for technical changes that would improve the act’s workability.
Little said that the recommendations that the government will now work on improve the court process for victims of sexual and family violence, better deal with unacceptable questioning of witnesses, and ensure that the rights of defendants to a fair trial are preserved.
In the next few months, the government will consider the remaining recommendations made by the commission, Little said. Some recommendations will affect how the courts operate, which needs to be scrutinised more, he said.
The government will work on developing legislation to amend the Evidence Act and review the Evidence Regulation act. These legislative changes are expected to be introduced next year, Little said.