Welcome to this post from New Laws. The Safety and privacy of jurors has long been a concern for many people and a new law which came into effect in New Zealand yesterday will address many privacy concerns as well as streamlining the jury system.
In announcing the new law, Justice Minister Judith Collins said that the Juries (Jury Service and Protection of Particulars of Jury List Information) Amendment Act would bring long overdue improvements to the jury system and improve the protection of jurors.
“Jury service is an important civic duty and those who are summoned deserve to feel safe,” Ms Collins says.
“The new Act puts jurors’ safety and privacy first by tightening access to jurors’ information and introducing provisions to make the jury process more efficient.”
Restricting access to the personal information and contact details for jurors was high on the government’s agenda. This followed a high profile case of convicted murderer George Baker who, in the course of representing himself at a trial, became privy to the names of jurors and who then wrote to one of the jury members.
Under the new laws personal information for jurors including name and address will be removed from the jury panel list and henceforth will only be able to be viewed by those eligible to view the same such as Police Prosecutors and counsel for the Crown. Where a defendant chooses to represent themselves, a lawyer will be appointed by the court to inspect information on behalf of the accused.
Another part of the jury system which has been a bit cumbersome is addressed by the new laws. A person will now be able to seek to be permanently excused from jury service on the grounds of disability or health reasons rather than having to apply to be excused on each individual occasion. Similarly, those over the age of 65 will now be able to apply to be permanently excused under the new law.
In announcing the new laws, Ms Collins had this to say “Every year on average 22,000 people over 65 are excused from jury service.”
“The new Act helps address the stress and inconvenience the current process causes many people and allows for a more efficient, less troublesome process both for people seeking to be excused and for court staff.”
For updates on new laws in New Zealand keep a regular eye on our blog page.