New Zealand Police v William Viliamu [2016] NZDC 3434

Published 11 July 2016

Application for stay of proceedings — delay in progressing criminal charges — New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 25(b) — Williams v R (2009) 24 CRNZ 468 (SC) — Martin v Tauranga District Court [1995] 12 CRNZ 509. The Judge found systemic delay in allocating a hearing for the applicant’s burglary trial. While such a delay was not justified and breached the applicant’s rights, the Judge denied the application for stay instead arranging a Judge-alone trial date for eight weeks’ time. Public acknowledgment of the breach and expediting the trial were viewed as the proportionate remedy in the circumstances. The applicant had submitted that a delay of one year in progressing his criminal charges breached his rights under s 25(b) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA). It was submitted that applicant’s trial could be prejudiced if witnesses’ memories were compromised, and further that the delay was egregious in terms of the Supreme Court’s decision in Williams. The police submitted that the delay was not unusual given the busy case load of the Manukau District Court and the need to accommodate witnesses and counsel availability. While recognising a high Court workload had caused delay, the judge opined that it did not excuse it. NZBORA, s 25(b) rights must be applied to all citizens equally no matter what part of the country they come from or where the charge is laid against them. The Judge iterated that the State was obliged to provide the resources required by the applicant to determine the charge against him. In reaching a remedy the Judge looked to Williams where it was stated that “the remedy for undue delay in an accused coming to trial must provide a reasonable and proportionate response to that delay. A stay is not a mandatory, or even a usual remedy”. Application for stay was refused.