New bill updates military justice system

  • Mark Mitchell

A bill that will update and better align the military justice system with the New Zealand criminal justice system was introduced to Parliament yesterday.

The Military Justice Legislation Amendment Bill will amend the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971, the Court Martial Act 2007 and the Court Martial Appeals Act 1953.

“This Bill introduces a number of significant improvements to the military justice system,” says Defence Minister Mark Mitchell.

“One of the most important of these is the incorporation into the military justice system of victims’ rights under Part 3 of the Victims Rights Act 2002.

“This will ensure that victims of specified offences have rights and protections in the military justice system that are equivalent to those that they would receive in the civilian system,” says Mr Mitchell.

“The Bill also repeals a provision of the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971 that places the onus of proof for defence of a specific charge on to the accused.

“This brings military proceedings into line with those in the civilian courts, where the onus is on the prosecution to prove the accused is guilty.”

The Bill also amends some aspects of the procedure of the Court Martial of New Zealand, such as aligning provisions relating to fitness to stand trial with the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003, and allowing a process for objecting to and substituting military members of the Court Martial.