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Courts Minister Rejects Criticism of Courts

Courts Minister Rick Barker Rejects Criticism of Courts

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"Our courts are better placed than ever to respond to increasing workloads," says Courts Minister Rick Barker.

Mr Barker said, that blaming courts for delays was "a simplistic approach" and "not all waiting time in the court system should automatically be classed as delays".


Mr Barker said the government valued the administration of justice and "is working hard to ensure all New Zealanders have modern, safe, and timely access to court services. An extra 15 Judges have been appointed to the District Court, two to the High Court and two in the Court of Appeal and 24 new courtrooms have been inserted into the court system since 2000.

"We have invested $156 million in revitalising Court infrastructure and capability which has achieved results. In the 2006-07-year 75 per cent of cases in the criminal summary jurisdiction of the District Court were resolved within 12 weeks."

Mr Barker said this funding had enabled the courts to dispose of more cases. "In the 2006-07 year jury trial disposals in the High Court improved by 9.4 per cent over the previous two year period to 339 cases, and this is mirrored in the District Court where disposals improved by eight per cent over the same period to approximately 165,000 cases."

Mr Barker said that digital evidence recording and transcription services had been expanded "and it is estimated that this technology will reduce court hearing time by between 20-30 per cent. In relation to court buildings Mr Barker said that 41 "building projects" had been completed over the past nine years since 1999. "This includes five new courthouses and 28 refurbishments."

Mr Barker said that one stay was one too many and in every case he had asked for a detailed review in order to identify why the stay occurred and if processes could be improved. "However, it is worth noting that in the 2006-07 year our courts disposed of over 165,000 cases during the last year in comparison to 18 stays granted during the same period.

"In addition not all waiting time in the court system should automatically be classed as delay, there are a number of steps involved in bringing a case to trial and all parties are entitled to prepare and present their case. While it is very easy to blame the court for delays, such a simplistic approach ignores the fact that court staff are required to coordinate the judiciary, prosecution, defence, witnesses, victims, scientific and special evidence and in some cases jurors.

"Any of these parties may have reasons for being unable to attend on the agreed day for reasons such as sickness, and this is often beyond the direct control of the court." Mr Barker said the court and courts staff were "responding to increased pressure due to increased workloads".

ENDS

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