News Item

September 2020

Ten new legal research projects receive funding from Law Foundation's final funding round

Earlier this month the Law Foundation approved funding for ten new legal research projects. This was our final round for applications before moving into recess. We are now gradually winding down as our current grantees complete their projects.

The final ten Law Foundation-funded projects cover some important issues:

The Status of Foreign Nationals in the Chinese Criminal Justice System
Public Health Law and Managing Covid-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand
Is it Time for a New Zealand Modern Slavery Act?
Legal Conceptions of Dignity and Mana in Aotearoa
Housing Law and Policy in New Zealand – a current text
Designing a New System for 21st Century Open Government
Ensuring the Reliability of Forensic Science in NZ Criminal Courts
Vicarious Trauma and the New Zealand Legal Profession
Open Access Publication of Judge Alone Trial Research Relating to Adult Rape Cases
Developing the Legal and Policy Framework for Introducing a Union Default

 

THE STATUS OF FOREIGN NATIONALS IN THE CHINESE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Dr Lili Song, Otago University Law Faculty, plans to examine the status on foreigners under Chinese criminal law. In the past 20 years, multiple NZ citizens and residents have been charged with criminal offences in China and arrested or wanted for extradition by Chinese authorities. The Kyung Yup Kim case pending hearing at the Supreme Court is a recent example. Dr Song’s work will be of interest to the New Zealand government and judiciary, and all New Zealanders who travel to China.

 

PUBLIC HEALTH LAW AND MANAGING COVID-19 IN AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND
Senior Lecturer, Public Health, at Otago University Medical School Louise Delany will describe and analyse New Zealand’s legal framework for managing COVID-19. The research will outline both the relevant legal frameworks that existed before Jan 2020 and how they developed during 2020 to address Covid-19 challenges. There is presently no current and comprehensive outline of public health law applicable to Covid-19 in New Zealand, and little analysis of how legal instruments interrelate for pandemic management, nor basis for current and future debate on how the law should develop. The proposed research will enable these gaps to be filled.

 

IS IT TIME FOR A NEW ZEALAND MODERN SLAVERY ACT?Co-funded with Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation
Modern slavery is a reality in New Zealand – it’s been identified in the horticultural sector, the former foreign-charter vessel sector of the fishing industry, and others. Our officials are currently updating the Plan of Action to Prevent People Trafficking in an effort to ensure New Zealand’s compliance with international standards, but further legal action is urgently needed, to come up to speed with jurisprudential advances in the UK and Australia. The project, jointly lead by Dr Christina Stringer and Professor Snejina Michailova (both at Auckland University’s Business School), will examine whether New Zealand should introduce a Modern Slavery Act into law, and consider the various issues associated with that proposition.

LEGAL CONCEPTIONS OF DIGNITY AND MANA IN AOTEAROACo-funded with Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation
This project will investigate the meaning, authority and function of dignity, and related tikanga concepts including mana, as legal principles in Aotearoa – based on thematic textual analysis of key legal texts. Researchers Dr Anna High and Ms Mihata Pirini, Otago University Law Faculty, say it is important that where legislators, lawyers and judges deploy “dignity” and/or related tikanga concepts (to support arguments, define legal obligations, or interpret legislation) that they do so in a principled and culturally sensitive way. This project will be an important first step towards that goal. They intend to shed light on inconsistencies, competing conceptions, and problematic usages, and in turn facilitate the use of dignity in a meaningful and consistent way.

HOUSING LAW AND POLICY IN NEW ZEALAND – A CURRENT TEXTCo-funded with Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation
Housing supply and affordability is an important and topical issue in New Zealand. There is as yet no text or authoritative source on this topic. Professor David Grinlinton, Auckland University Law Faculty, intends to write a book to fill this gap. It will be of value to the profession, academics, students, policy-makers and others and will cover the following topics:
– Historical development of housing law and policy, and tenancy protection in NZ
– Social justice and human rights principles relevant to housing law and policy
– Legal mechanisms of securing home ownership and occupation of residential housing
– Tenancy protection legislation and practice
– Health and safety, sanitation and habitability, structural integrity of housing
– Social housing law and policy
– Housing and disadvantaged peoples
– Housing and Maori
– Housing crises in New Zealand
– Housing in conflict, pandemics and post-disaster environments.

DESIGNING A NEW SYSTEM FOR 21ST CENTURY OPEN GOVERNMENT
Independent Researcher Andrew Ecclestone intends to analyse the systemic issues around open government in New Zealand, and produce a report and an outcomes model that recommends the creation of a new legal framework. His work will lay the foundation for new legislation.

ENSURING THE RELIABILITY OF FORENSIC SCIENCE IN NZ CRIMINAL COURTSCo-funded with Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation
Associate Professor Carrie Leonetti (Auckland University Law Faculty) assisted by Jack Oliver-Hood will evaluate the state of forensic-science evidence in New Zealand criminal courts. They will ascertain whether the Evidence Act 2006 is sufficient to ensure the validity and reliability of the scientific evidence used in criminal trials in New Zealand. The project will close any gaps, in the current legal regime for screening forensic-science evidence, by generating best-practice standards for the use of forensic evidence in New Zealand and proposing changes to the Evidence Act 2006 and/or the way the New Zealand appellate courts interpret it.

VICARIOUS TRAUMA AND THE NEW ZEALAND LEGAL PROFESSION
The mental health and wellbeing of the New Zealand legal profession needs urgent attention. Lead researcher Georgina Woods-Child says this project will assess the prevalence of vicarious trauma* experienced by New Zealand lawyers and Judges, the effects it has on their personal and professional lives and will consider risk-mitigation and support strategies the profession could trial or implement. This project is being supported by researchers at the AUT Law School.
*Vicarious trauma in legal contexts refers to the cumulative effects of exposure to clients’ trauma/distress or traumatic material relating legal proceedings and representation.

OPEN ACCESS PUBLICATION OF JUDGE ALONE TRIAL RESEARCH RELATING TO ADULT RAPE CASES
Professor Elisabeth McDonald, Canterbury University Law School, has been awarded funding for publishing an Open Access online book of her research that compares processes of judge alone trials with those of jury trials in adult rape cases – trials that concern allegations of “acquaintance rape” or intimate partner sexual violence. The publication draws together findings from previous research projects – findings that analyse factors that contribute to distress when giving evidence, and that assess whether the dynamics of the questioning process is different in judge alone trials. This publication will be important in informing debates about the reform of the NZ criminal justice system, and in contributing to international discussion about improving law and justice responses to sexual offending.

DEVELOPING THE LEGAL AND POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR INTRODUCING A UNION DEFAULT*
This study builds on University of Waikato Professor Mark Harcourt’s previous research project supported by the Law Foundation that looked at the legal architecture needed to support a union default, and public support for such a default. Mark’s current project will examine the conditions necessary to ensure the default’s effectiveness and support for it. He acknowledges that while laws that enhance rights and freedoms need to be accessible to those who would use them; they should not impose unnecessary costs and inconveniences on others e.g. employers carrying out the automatic enrolment and anti-union workers wanting to opt out. Mark’s research is being supported by Waikato University Emeritus Professor Margaret Wilson.
*Union default – the employee automatically becomes a union member and must opt out if they do not wish to retain union membership.

The Law Foundation awarded a total of $364,140 to these ten projects

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