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Labour ignores looming crisis in courts

Kate Wilkinson MP
National Party Associate Justice Spokeswoman

7 September 2006

Labour ignores looming crisis in courts

National Party Associate Justice spokeswoman Kate Wilkinson is demanding hard evidence that the courts system has been 'steadily improving' in light of figures which show the waiting times for jury trials has increased in each and every South Island High Court.

"It is no wonder that the court system is in disarray after the Courts Minister made the extraordinary statement in Parliament that he did not accept that justice delayed is justice denied.

"Mr Barker claims to be 'doing heaps', but how does increasing the number of judges to three, and then only in Wellington and Auckland, help the High Court in Christchurch where the median waiting time for trials has ballooned from 143 days to 203 days, or in Gisborne where it has ballooned from 109 days to 262 days?

"In fact the median waiting times for High Court jury trials has increased in each and every South Island High Court yet Mr Barker brushes this off as a 'court here and a court there'. Is access to justice in the South Island simply not a priority for this Labour Government?

"Before the Minister can even begin to fix the problem he needs to recognise that there is a major issue. He is in denial mode which does nothing to give us confidence in our justice system.

"In the past two years the median waiting lists for a hearing date in the District Court has ballooned from 161 days to 372 days in Blenheim, from 198 days to 351 days in Nelson, from 187 days to 279 days in Wanganui and from 199 days to 343 days in Greymouth. The Minister is in utter denial if he thinks this can possibly rate as an improvement.

"How many parts of our justice system have to fail before Rick Barker pulls finger and does something about it? Already there is a crisis in legal aid where battered women are forced to represent themselves because there are not enough legal aid lawyers.

"How much longer do the court waiting lists have to be before the Minister accepts that his 'queue reduction strategy' is not working?

"The lives of both victims and offenders are currently being put on hold waiting for justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.

"Labour seems to have no appreciation of the stress and personal costs caused by the long backlogs in our courts," says Ms Wilkinson.

ENDS

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