“Please release me…” – Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill before Parliament

1 Sep 12

National List MP Chris Auchinvole had his Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill drawn from the ballot in Parliament on 28 June 2012. This bill, if passed in its current form, will amend the Habeas Corpus Act 2001. The amendments follow from recommendations made by the law commission to bring the Act up to date with modern technology and changes to the Courts.

Habeas Corpus is an ancient writ, dating back to the thirteenth century, which requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court to ensure the person is released from unlawful detention. This writ coincides with one of the human rights found in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (s 23). The procedure to follow for an application for a writ of habeas corpus is found in the Habeas Corpus Act 2001. Under the Act an application for a writ of habeas corpus must be given priority by the Court. The Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Act in the following ways:

  • The Court may hear applications via electronic means;
  • The Court may defer applications, this means that other Court work could take precedence over an application for the writ of habeas corpus;
  • The Court may reject an application regardless of whether the defendant has proven the detention was unlawful.

The Bill potentially affects everyone but the major applicants for writs of habeas corpus are sentenced prisoners. One of the main drivers of this Bill is to limit potentially vexatious applications for writs of habeas corpus tying up valuable Court time.

The Bill will allow the Court the freedom to hear matters that are truly urgent, such as other human rights matters, before it hears an application for a writ of habeas corpus. If the Court does hear an application for habeas corpus it now has the ability to hear them quickly and efficiently via electronic means. The Court may now also reject applications for a writ of habeas corpus regardless of whether the defendant displaces the burden of proving that the detention was unlawful.

Submissions on the Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill are being accepted until 28 September 2012. If you would like more information on the Amendment Bill and the submission process you can find it here. If you would like help making a submission on the Amendment Bill please contact our criminal experts Nic Soper or Alexandra Cunninghame at Anderson Lloyd Lawyers.