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More walk free without trial under Labour

Kate Wilkinson
National Party Associate Justice Spokeswoman

29 April 2008

More walk free without trial under Labour

Stays of prosecution are running at the highest level since Labour was elected in 1999, says National’s Associate Justice spokeswoman, Kate Wilkinson.

“Labour’s justice system is dropping into further crisis, with new figures showing a disturbing number of stays of prosecution in the past year.”

She is releasing figures which show that In 2006/07 there were 18 stays of prosecution, more than half of them caused by systemic reasons. This compares with just seven in 2005/06. And 2007/08 is shaping to be just as bad, with 12 in the first eight months indicating it will be at least the second highest year since 1999.

“These figures are concerning and are mostly a direct result of the rapidly worsening log-jam in the courts.

“The latest figures I have show big increases in the number of criminal trials outstanding and in median trial waiting times:

* 241 criminal trials outstanding in the High Court, and 1,437 in district courts.
* The median trial waiting time in the High Court was 290 days, and 256 in district courts.
* The average wait for a trial from committal to scheduled date was 283 days in the district court and 305 days in the High Court.
* At September last year there were 18,682 cases on hold because defendants had absconded while on bail or had simply not turned up.

“The longer the waiting list for trials, the more people are walking away without trial because they are not being tried on time.

“Labour is failing to ensure justice is being served in a timely manner.

“In the past, the type of cases not being heard because of systemic problems in the court system include people charged with assault with intent to injure, male assaults female, unlawful possession of a firearm, importing drugs, and wounding with intent, and perverting the course of justice.

“This issue goes to the heart of public safety, and Courts Minister Rick Barker must tell the public what he is doing about it.

“After all, it was Phil Goff, a former Justice Minister and the present Corrections Minister, who said in 1995: ‘It is a scandal that we have a system that has so broken down that we have those delays in hearing cases and we have people who, in all probability, would have been found guilty but the charges against them have been dismissed.’

Attachment: answer to parliamentary question


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