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Call for justice review committee for miscarriages

Tuesday 8 Oct 2013 7:33 p.m.

The Privy Council's judgement in the Mark Lundy case has reopened debate about how New Zealand deals with potential miscarriages of justice.

Lundy's legal team says the current system is broken.

Lundy's lawyer spent three years getting the case to the Privy Council. But lawyer Malcolm Birdling says it shouldn't have taken so long and New Zealand needs an independent commission that can deal with controversial cases quicker and cheaper.

"It really is essential going forward," say Mr Birdling. "It is something New Zealand has waited far too long for."

It's not just Lundy, supporters of other high-profile cases such as Arthur Allan Thomas, Rex Haig, Peter Ellis, Teina Pora and David Bain are saying the same.

"If we had one of those commissions earlier, Bain would never have spent all the time he spent in prison," says Mr Bain's lawyer, Michael Reed QC.

"There's been two very high-profile cases now when the Privy Council has essentially sent them back to the courts – that's David Bain and Mark Lundy," says Prime Minister John Key. "Does that mean there's something wrong with our judicial system? No."

The UK has had a Criminal Cases Review Commission for 17 years. It's sole purpose is to investigate potential miscarriages of justice. It's looked into more than 15,000 cases and sent 530 back to the courts, resulting in 341 convictions quashed.

"It would make it a lot more accessible," says former law commissioner Dr Warren Young. "It would make it a lot faster and more efficient and it would enable a body to proactively gather information and evidence itself."

Labour's pledging change.

"There is something wrong," says Labour MP Andrew Little. "We have far too many cases that are taking up too much time – court time, lawyer time. I think we just need that extra safety valve process."

Justice Minister Judith Collins says setting up a new independent body would not stop debate about alleged miscarriages of justice and had a go at Labour, saying it considered the issue when in government and did nothing.

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