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More cases heard and more fines collected

Hon Rick Barker
Minister for Courts

17 December 2007
Media Statement

More cases heard and more fines collected

Courts Minister, Rick Barker has today praised the constant improvements in the Courts portfolio. He cited increased disposals and an increase in the value of fines collected, as evidence that the investment the Labour-led government has made in the Courts sector is improving access to justice for all New Zealanders.

"Improvements introduced by this Labour-led government have shown real results since 1999, and year on year improvement is testament to the commitment of this government and of those who work in our courts," Mr Barker said.

"In the High Court the number of jury trials completed has increased by 9% over the past two years and the number of cases dealt with by the District Court increased by 5%.

"Of the 156,294 cases dealt with in the criminal summary jurisdiction of the District Court in 2006/07, 75% were resolved within 12 weeks.

"Our Courts are responding to substantially increased workloads and increasingly complex trials, and pressures on the Courts system, particularly in Auckland, are being dealt with. Electronically filing infringement notices, enhanced digital audio technology speeding up post courtroom processes, and video conferencing, reducing the complexity of scheduling limited court time and reducing the need to travel, are just some of the initiatives that Labour has invested in to help ensure more timely access to justice.

"Labour has also undertaken the biggest Court building programme in recent history. In the last six years we have completed five new courthouses and 28 major courthouse refurbishments. A further two new courthouses are currently being planned and eight more major refurbishments are either planned or underway.

"Courthouses are point of civic pride for our communities and need to reflect this in their appearance, but state of the art court facilities are also contributing dramatically to our ability to dispose of cases in a safe and timely manner.

"The Justice and Electoral Select committee recently expressed concern about stays of proceeding in the Court system. I share their concerns, but would like to place the figures in context.

"The courts disposed of over 165,000 cases during the last year in comparison to 18 stays granted during the same period. 9 were systemic, 8 were prosecutorial and 1 was systemic and prosecutorial.

"One stay is one too many and in every case I ask for a detailed review in order to identify why the stay occurred and if processes can be improved.

"I am also very pleased with the progress we are making to collect fines and reparations. In just five years the value of fines collected increased by $100 million, we have doubled the number of vehicles seized in just 2 years (from 1053 to 2419), and introduced the Collection of Fines at Airports initiative – whereby we can stop people at the border if they have unpaid fines.

"The number of fines put on arrangement to pay has also increased by 114% in five years.

"It is particularly important to collections staff that we collect reparation and money owing to the victims of crime as a priority. The rate of receipted reparation has gone up to $7.89 million (an increase of 8%) and currently 75% of reparation imposed is collected.

"We have also carried out joint operations with Police to target boy racers, drink drivers and others with unpaid fines.

"This Labour-led Government's has made it tougher for those who don’t pay their fines, and easier for those who do.

"We are constantly looking for ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of both our Courts and our fines collection processes, but it is also important we acknowledge the enormous amount of progress we have already made.

"New Zealanders deserve modern, safe, and timely access to justice and under Labour that is what they are getting," Mr Barker said.

ENDS

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