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IpHE establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal in this country, for which a bill has been introduced into Parliament, will be approved by all who are interested in maintaining modern progress in our judicial institutions. It is, in fact, long overdue. Those who are inclined to think complacently of New Zealand leading the world in social reforms may reflect that such a Court has existed in England since 1907. The history of its establishment is of interest. As Sir Michael Myers pointed out in addressing the Grand Jury in Wellington, it followed almost immediately upon the investigation, in 1904, of the Beck case. That was an example of an innocent man being condemned. Have we had no such case in New Zealand since 1907? He would be a .bold man who would say so. Yet there has been no effective right of appeal from the Supreme Court in criminal matters except where a wrong ruling has been given on a question of law. Errors in practice and miscarriages of justice on questions of fact have not been able to be made matters of appeal. In a recent appeal from the verdict of an Auckland jury, the Chief Justice, in giving judgment, said that the Court would have ordered a new trial had it had the power to do so—but it had no such power, and the conviction had to be affirmed, contrary to the feelings of the judges. This state of affairs will be remedied by the institution of the new Court. It will have power to quash convictions, or order a new trial, not only where verdicts cannot be sustained in law, but where they are not warranted on the facts. An additional insurance, in other words, is being provided against the possibility of an innocent man being' convicted. Citizens all over the Dominion, whatever their political views, will welcome this step, agreeing with the ancient maxim of British justice that it is better that ten guilty men should go free than that one innocent person should be condemned. The change effected by the new legislation will inevitably suggest others. One of these is the question of prison reform. It is to be hoped that while the mood for spring-cleaning lasts, an investigation—not a Departmental investigation, but an independent outside inquiry—will be held into prison methods and the treatment of prisoners in this country. The view is widely held that we lag far behind modern ideas—even behind civilised ideas—in this respect. Another reform which is suggested by the bill now under consideration is the possibility of instituting a permanent Court of civil appeal, composed of separate judges, to sit' periodically ,in the various centres. The interests of civil litigants are not best served by the present system of centralising the hearing of all civil appeals at Wellington.

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Bibliographic details

A NEW COURT, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 179, 31 July 1945

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A NEW COURT Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 179, 31 July 1945