Extradition process needs to be fixed -- Law Commission

Kim Dotcom during his extradition hearing (AAP)
Kim Dotcom during his extradition hearing (AAP)

Changes have been proposed to streamline and standardise the extradition process to stop cases becoming convoluted and delay-ridden, like that of Kim Dotcom.

The Law Commission has today released its final report into New Zealand's extradition laws, and says the country can do better at dealing with growing cross-border crimes.

It recommends the process be simplified in three main ways: extradition requests from other countries should be processed in the same standard way, tailor-made rules should guide extradition proceedings and a central authority should be created to manage requests.

However, under the proposal not all extradition requests would be equal -- there would be a standard and simplified version.

The Commission also believes legislation should be clearer as to how New Zealand protects the rights of those who are being sought.

It says the current Extradition Act 1999 is "overly complex and outdated", with the steps needed varying depending on country and based on treaties which are sometimes more than 100 years old.

Dotcom's case, which has been dragged through the courts for more than four years, has this week been given a date to appeal against the ruling he could be extradited.

The internet entrepreneur and his three co-accused, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk, face criminal copyright charges laid by US authorities relating to their now defunct website Megaupload.

The case so far has been riddled with appeals and delays.

In December, Judge Nevin Dawson ruled there was "overwhelming" evidence the accused had a case to answer in the US. A decision to appeal was indicated as soon as the ruling was handed down.

Commission president Sir Grant Hammond says while New Zealand has a significant role in fighting transnational crime, it also has to ensure basic human rights are provided to those under investigation or who face prosecution.

"Achieving these two goals lies at the heart of this project," he says.

Lead commissioner Geoff McLay says the current extradition process "cuts across many departmental boundaries".

Funnelling the work into one central agency would mean there would be a "clear role and ownership" of the work.

The report also looks into mutual assistance, which is the process of formally assisting another country in a criminal investigation or prosecution.

The Commission says the current legislation for granting assistance needs to be "considerably" simplified and also make clearer the protections to ensure New Zealand's values are maintained.

"The scope of possible assistance should be broadened. Given the extent of the growing problem of transnational crime, a full range of investigative tools needs to be made available in appropriate cases. This is in keeping with the commitments that New Zealand has made to the international community," Mr McLay says.

The report is set to be tabled in the House today.

NZ Law Commission report into extradition and mutual assistance laws

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