In the UK they have the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice. The CCRC was created by an Act of Parliament, and is funded by the government, although it operates independently, much like the Ombudsman here in New Zealand. The CCRC represents a step in the justice process that we’re missing here. There are options available within the system for those who have been wrongly convicted, such as the Court of Appeal, but they’re often expensive and hard to access. Because of this, it has been estimated that as many as 20 wrongfully convicted individuals are imprisoned in New Zealand at any given time.
Unfortunately, the government has been very clear that it feels that the current system is adequate, and that we do not need a review commission. However many prominent New Zealanders, such as Sir Thomas Thorp and Dr Don Brash, both of whom spoke at the launch, have been vocal over the years in stating that we do.
NZPIP was created as a way of bringing a CCRC-style process to the New Zealand system, outside of official channels. Instead of being funded by the government, NZPIP is staffed by volunteers and funded through donations. This team includes prominent academics, private investigators, forensic scientists and lawyers. It also includes the Howard League’s own Nigel Hampton QC and Dr Jarrod Gilbert, as well as Tim McKinnel, who spoke at our recent AGM. Members of this team have been involved in potential miscarriage of justice cases before, including those of Teina Pora and Mark Lundy.
This model, which includes using University of Canterbury students, also means that NZPIP can pursue other cases outside of miscarriages of justice. They plan to undertake civil cases as well, focusing on areas that serve the broader public interest or concern the rights of many citizens.
NZPIP is now considering its first set of applications. If you have or know about a case that might be a miscarriage of justice, or might be valid civil case, you can download the form from their website or request a form in the mail.