Evidence Act should have exceptions for mātauranga Māori and tikanga, says Law Commission

  • 22/03/2024
It's one of a raft of recommendations being presented to Parliament.
It's one of a raft of recommendations being presented to Parliament. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Law Commission says the hearsay rule should have exceptions for mātauranga Māori and tikanga to normalise its use as evidence.  

It's one of a raft of recommendations being presented to Parliament on Friday by the commission, which concluded changes to the Evidence Act 2006 were needed "to promote the just and efficient determination of court proceedings". 

In general, the Act was working well in practice but "there are some areas where we think reform is warranted", Law Commission president Amokura Kawharu said. 

"For example, there have been longstanding concerns about the operation of the hearsay rule, which may prevent a person's statement from being used if they do not give evidence in court, and the improperly obtained evidence rule, which governs the use of evidence that has been obtained unlawfully or unfairly." 

Under the current law, a hearsay statement can only be admitted if it's "provided by this subpart or by the provisions of any other Act" or in cases where "this Act provides that this subpart does not apply; and the hearsay statement is relevant and not otherwise inadmissible under this Act". 

The Act's rules against hearsay and opinion evidence could "create challenges for the admission of mātauranga and tikanga evidence", the report said, particularly when it derives "from the tradition of oral history or kōrero tuku iho in te ao Māori". 

"We recommend creating an exception to the hearsay rule for statements concerning the existence or content of mātauranga and tikanga.  

"This is necessary to normalise the admission of tikanga and mātauranga (including oral history) and promote more efficient conduct of proceedings." 

Among the other recommendations included allowing the inclusion of out-of-court statements for witnesses too intimidated to testify in court; establishing protections for the acceptance of evidence provided by informants within Correctional facilities; and amending the Act to make civil proceedings more efficient. 

"Our recommendations respond to these longstanding concerns as well as emerging issues in evidence law and will help to ensure the Act is fit for purpose in the future," Kawharu said.