Waikato Regional Council’s regulatory committee has agreed to a staff recommendation to end its role in deciding what cases will be prosecuted in court.
The committee’s decision - which needs to be agreed to by full council - follows criticisms from the Auditor-General’s office over the role of councilors nationally in deciding on prosecutions. It said removing councillors from the process would help prevent any perception of political bias in decisions.
After the Auditor-General’s comments were released, the regional council’s regulatory committee asked staff to prepare a report and recommendation on the issues raised.
The staff report said that since June 2005, 82 matters have been referred to the committee with a recommendation to prosecute – 79 recommendations were supported and just three were not.
However, the committee today accepted a staff recommendation that the prosecution decision should be removed from the committee’s terms of reference and power to act.
“While we know of no case where political bias has meant a case hasn’t proceeded to prosecution, the committee was happy that the new arrangements will help further bolster confidence in our processes,” said committee chair Lois Livingston.
The decision, if endorsed by full council, means that council prosecution decisions will now be made by a panel of senior staff.