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Log jam in courts gets worse

Simon Power MP National Party Law & Order Spokesman

30 November 2005

Log jam in courts gets worse

National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power, says the Government needs to get off its backside and deal with New Zealand's huge and worsening log jam of court cases.

He is commenting on figures that show defendants are waiting longer and longer to have their cases heard.

The average waiting time for criminal trials in District Courts is now 179 days, up from 160 days when Labour came to power in 2000. The number of criminal trials outstanding is now 1,321, up 44% from 916. In the High Court, the number of outstanding criminal cases is 165, up from 143 in 2000.

Mr Power says the figures are very worrying.

"These delays may put victims in danger of further violence, and prevent defendants from beginning their sentences or clearing their names.

"And, if cases take too long to be heard, they may be dismissed under the Bill of Rights, and guilty people may go free.

"Labour increased the number of judges but clearly that was not enough.

"A report yesterday that the Government may be considering lifting the retirement age of judges to help ease recruitment worries would help, but it is way too little and way too late.

"National has been calling for years for more resources for the courts, but under this Labour-led Government, instead of improving, things have gone from bad to worse.

"We need to recruit more judges by making the job more attractive, make better use of technology, and improve case management practices," Mr Power says.

ENDS

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