Medieval law axed

The ‘year and a day rule’ rule will be repealed following the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill, says Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The ‘year and a day rule’ prevented people from being prosecuted for causing the death of a person who dies after that length of time.

“Removing the archaic and unjust ‘year and a day rule’ rule will ensure it no longer prevents those who break the law from being held to account,” says Mr Little.

“This Coalition Government is committed to ensuring the criminal code in New Zealand is fit for purpose. It makes no sense to stop a prosecution because of an arbitrary date chosen in medieval times.

“Advances in medical science and life support machines that may keep victims alive for longer than a year and a day mean there is no longer any justification for this rule.

“This rule was also a potential bar to prosecution in the CTV building collapse following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. While the change is not retrospective, it means that those who break the law in future will not be able to rely on this rule to escape prosecution,” says Andrew Little.

Immunity from prosecution for people who assist their spouse or civil union partner by obstructing justice has also been repealed. These two provisions have presented unjustified barriers to prosecution and the changes will modernise the Crimes Act 1961.