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March 3, 2017 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Year and a day

A centuries-old New Zealand law has sparked controversy after George Siaosi recently died as a result of an assault in Auckland that occurred 15 months ago.

Under section 162 of the Crimes Act 1961, a person cannot be held liable for the death of a victim who dies a year and a day after the causative incident.

Siaosi’s family have slammed the rule as arbitrary, allowing defendants to effectively be excluded from liability, not by the merits of the case but instead through the advancements of medical technology, like life-support.

Conversely, the Criminal Bar Association has pointed to the dangers in revoking the law, saying discretion could lead to defendants facing a potential culpable homicide charge indefinitely.

Criminal Justice lobby group, JustSpeak, says that the criminal law should be “open to scientific change,” and that discretion may be warranted in “complex cases.”

Dr Yvette Tinsley, Associate Professor at the Victoria University Faculty of Law, said that the law serves to ensure “clear lines of causation between the defendant’s actions and the death.” However there was no “magic” to the time limit, which could be up for debate given scientific advances. Ultimately, the amount of cases caught by the rule is “minimal.”

The provision has been abolished in England and Wales, and most Australian states.

[ssba]

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