The ability of citizens to bring civil legal proceedings against the Crown and its servants is an important part of New Zealand’s constitution, and is protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The Crown Proceedings Act 1950 is the principal statute that governs the civil liability of the Crown. It is based on a 1947 United Kingdom Act. It was designed to solve problems with the law as it stood at that time in the United Kingdom, and does not reflect the way in which New Zealand is now governed or modern court practice. As a result, the current Act presents procedural and substantive difficulties for both plaintiffs seeking to sue the Crown, and for the Crown in defending those actions.
The purpose of this review is to modernise and simplify the Crown Proceedings Act so as to provide a better mechanism for citizens to bring just claims against the Crown, and to allow the Crown to appropriately defend claims. The review will also consider the relationship between the Crown Proceedings Act, and provisions that seek to immunise or indemnify the Crown or its servants, such as s 86 of the State Sector Act 1988. This review is not intended to review the underlying civil law ( tort and contract) through which people seek to bring the Crown to account. This review will include consultation with the Crown Law Office, other Government Departments and the profession.
The Commission released the Issues Paper, A New Crown Civil Proceedings Act for New Zealand (NZLC IP35) in April 2014. The Paper included a draft Bill. Submissions on the Issues Paper and draft Bill closed in September 2014 and the Commission is now preparing its final report on this review.