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Comment by Ministers on judicial decisions

4.12 The separation of the Executive and the judiciary under New Zealand’s system of government means that Ministers must exercise judgement before commenting on judicial decisions, whether generally, or in relation to the specifics of an individual case (for example, the sentence).

4.13 Ministers should not express any views that are likely to be publicised if they could be regarded as reflecting adversely on the impartiality, personal views, or ability of any judge. If a Minister has grounds for concern over a sentencing decision, the Attorney-General should be informed.

4.14Following a long-established principle, Ministers do not comment on or involve themselves in the investigation of offences or the decision as to whether a person should be prosecuted, or on what charge. Similarly, they should not comment on the results of particular cases, on matters that are subject to suppression orders, or on any sentence handed down by a court. Ministers must avoid commenting on any sentences within the appeal period, and should avoid at all times any comment that could be construed as being intended to influence the courts in subsequent cases.

4.15The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (the Standing Orders) prohibit discussion in the House of matters that are awaiting judicial decision or that are the subject of a suppression order, subject to the discretion of the Speaker. The Standing Orders provide useful guidance on when to refrain from comment. The requirement for restraint applies to both civil and criminal cases.

4.16 Ministers may comment on the effectiveness of the law, or about policies on punishment (that is, on matters where the Executive has a proper involvement), but not where the performance of the courts is brought into question.

Last updated: 
Monday, 20 November 2017

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