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Courts blow-out a symptom of failing system

Kate Wilkinson MP
National Party Associate Justice Spokeswoman

17 August 2006

Courts blow-out a symptom of failing system

National Party Associate Justice spokeswoman Kate Wilkinson says the blow-out in court waiting lists is another symptom of a failing justice system.

“If Labour’s true to form, they’ll start culling people from the courts waiting list next. They’ve done it with hospitals, they’re doing it with prisons, are courts next?”

According to answers to written parliamentary questions, there are 230 criminal cases waiting for trial in the High Court, compared with 135 cases four years ago. The Court of Appeal also has 220 criminal cases awaiting hearing, compared with 157 cases in 2004.

Meanwhile, the median waiting time has also increased for High Court jury trials from 179 days in 2003 to 228 days. And in the District Court the median wait’s increased from 212 days in 2004 to 224 days in 2006.

“Across the board, the numbers are getting worse. It’s clear that the implications of previous sentencing changes by Labour haven’t been thought through.”

Ms Wilkinson says the growing waiting list for court cases is at odds with the Minister’s assurance in June that ‘the court system has been steadily improving over the last 6 years of a Labour-led Government’.

The waiting list blow-out follows news that legal aid lawyers are in such short supply in parts of the country that battered women are being forced to represent themselves in abuse and protection order cases.

“Women’s Refuge has told us that women are withdrawing from the process because they can’t face the prospect of representing themselves. Is this evidence of a ‘steady improvement’ as the Minister would have us believe?

“Add to this the growing lines outside our courtrooms and the Minister’s claims start looking somewhat hollow,” says Ms Wilkinson.

ENDS

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