Chapter 5
Role of pecuniary penalties

5.1At the outset of this review, the Law Commission had reservations about pecuniary penalties. At first glance, they appeared an unprincipled measure, created to side-step criminal procedural protections, and so make it easier for enforcement agencies to have substantial penalties imposed. There may be some truth to this. In some cases, the decision to use pecuniary penalties in a statutory regime may have been influenced by this thinking. Despite this, the Commission has reached the view that, provided they are developed in a principled manner and accompanied by appropriate procedural safeguards, pecuniary penalties serve a valid purpose.

5.2This view was reflected in the submissions we received. Although views differed as to what procedural protections should be in place, there was general agreement that, in light of the need to effectively and efficiently regulate conduct and punish breaches of the law, and for trans-Tasman harmonisation, pecuniary penalties have a place. We expect the use of pecuniary penalties to grow in New Zealand. Here and abroad, there is growing acceptance that the criminal law is not the only or best way to penalise and deter law-breaking. However, at stake are important principles of justice that should not be neglected or ignored.

5.3In this chapter, we describe our view of the purpose and role of pecuniary penalties. This is intended to assist policymakers when they are determining whether to include pecuniary penalties in a legislative regime.