News Item

November 2012

NZ's Premier Law Prize announced

Dr Emily Henderson will research the reform of cross-examination as the 2012 New Zealand Law Foundation International Research Fellow.

Her award of the fellowship was announced at the New Zealand Law Foundation 2012 Annual Awards Dinner, hosted by Justice Minister Judith Collins at Parliament’s Grand Hall on 29 November.

A former Crown prosecutor, Dr Henderson is currently an honorary research fellow at Auckland University’s Department of Psychology and is completing a study of expert witnesses with Professor Fred Seymour.

She is the first woman recipient of the fellowship in the 10 years it has been running. The International Research Fellowship is New Zealand’s premier legal research award. Valued at up to $125,000, it is awarded annually to enable a person of outstanding ability to undertake legal research that will make a significant contribution to New Zealand.

Cross-examination is not a new research area for Dr Henderson. Her 2001 PhD from Cambridge was awarded for her thesis on Cross-examination: A Critical Examination.

In 1997, Auckland University awarded her a Masters of Jurisprudence with distinction for her thesis ‘Reckless Disregard’ Cross-examining Child Witnesses in Sexual Abuse Trials.

As the Law Foundation’s International Research Fellow, she will study the reform of cross-examination, based on an analysis of its fundamental purpose within the fair criminal trial.

She will use the emergent theory of cross-examination to analyse whether the reform options meet the underlying principles of a fair trial and to consider the extent to which cross-examination may be able to be repaired rather than replaced.

“In the last 30 years,” she says, “a powerful case has been made that conventional cross-examination in criminal trials is a poor means of testing the accuracy, veracity and completeness of vulnerable witnesses’ evidence and (it) has an unduly detrimental effect upon them.

“Even the legal professional bodies of countries such as New Zealand, and England and Wales now publicly accept that cross-examination must be reformed.

“However, it is crucial to ensure the vital human rights of the accused are protected by whatever reform option we choose. The point of the study will be to evaluate how best to ensure a fair trial for everybody.”

Part one of her study will explore the case against cross-examination. Part two will explore the case for cross-examination. Part three will evaluate the reform options, which are divided into two camps: the rehabilitative and the replacement options.

The final chapter will draw together the conclusions of the evaluation of the options and make recommendations regarding future reform in New Zealand.

[Source: LawTalk]