Civil pecuniary penalties are imposed by the High Court under the authority of a statute for a breach of that legislation. The primary purpose of such a regime is to secure compliance with a statutory requirement. That is unobjectionable in itself.
The decision is discretionary and can involve very large sums of money. This is done without a criminal trial or a conviction being entered.
This has given rise to a debate about when such penalties are desirable, how they should be formulated and applied, and in particular what safeguards should attend their employment.
These issues are of fundamental importance given the widespread resort to civil pecuniary penalties in New Zealand statutes today.
The Commission has been given a reference which requires us to look at the present state of the law relating to civil pecuniary penalties, with particular emphasis on the circumstances in which they should be used and what sort of legal framework should be devised for them.
Following the release of this Issues Paper, the Commission will engage in a consultative process with a range of parties, and enable public submissions, before preparing a final report for tabling in Parliament.