Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Doing the right thing

And now, on the actual date of the sixth anniversary of this site, here – as my 400th posting - is a note on Petryszick v R [2010] NZSC 105 (24 August 2010).

The only grounds on which the Court of Appeal may dismiss an appeal against conviction are set out in s 385(1) Crimes Act 1961, and the substantive right to appeal (s 383) is not restricted - in the absence of express or implied authority in primary legislation - by authority to make procedural rules (32). Nor could the inherent right of the Court to control its own procedure be invoked to undermine the general standard of process required by s 25(h) New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

There will therefore be occasions when the Court must address grounds for appeal specified in preliminary documents without the assistance of a fully prepared argument for the appellant. Here the appellant had been in custody and correspondence from the court had been wrongly addressed, there were delays in approving a grant of full legal aid for his appeal, official correspondence did not refer to points he had raised, there were delays in giving the appellant information he needed to prepare his appeal. The Court of Appeal had dismissed the appeal without considering all the matters that had been raised.

The humorous side of this case is in the reaction of the Court of Appeal to the sort of quotidian frustrations that ordinary people can encounter in their efforts to obtain the service to which they are entitled from the bureaucracy. Consigning such a case to the wastepaper basket of dismissed appeals is not the right thing to do.

Rules of procedure should assist access to courts. The present Supreme Court case is reminiscent of the spirit of its earlier decision in Zaoui v Attorney-General, noted here on 25 November 2004. The lesson delivered by the Privy Council in Taito v R (New Zealand) [2002] UKPC 15 needs to be remembered. People who look for reasons to institute a criminal cases review tribunal will take the Court of Appeal's approach to Petryszick as an example.