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Report on Public Perceptions of Courts

Report on Public Perceptions of Courts

Courts Minister Rick Barker released the 2006 report on 'Public Perceptions of the New Zealand Court System and Processes' today.

"The survey shows that since 1999 we have made steady incremental improvements to a system that was grossly under-invested and neglected," said Rick Barker.

"In 2004 a massive injection of $156million was made just to get the system back to the starting line. A Service Improvement Programme has been implemented that focuses on up-skilling staff, improving information technology, improving services at the front line for the public and increasing the capacity of our courts to meet the demands of communities now and in the future," said Rick Barker.

The report identifies that in key areas such as fairness, respect, inclusiveness and being a system with capacity to deliver to a modern society, attitudes had become significantly more positive: Significantly more people agree or agree strongly that courts processes treat people with respect (57% in 2006 compared with 45% in 1999) Significantly more people agree or agree strongly that courts provide services for all New Zealanders (77% in 2006 compared with 66% in 1999) Significantly more people agree or agree strongly that New Zealand has modern court systems and processes (58% in 2006 compared with 50% in 1999) Significantly more people agree or agree strongly that court processes are fair (56% in 2006 compared with 44% in 1999)

"Going to court for whatever reason, whether it is to pay a fine or reparation, to appear before a judge, to obtain information or to use any of the myriad of other services provided, can be a bit like going to the dentist – you know you have to go, but that doesn't mean you want to!" said Rick Barker.

"Perceptions of courts generally start in the negative, so to have a shift in perceptions in some of the key areas of service delivery is a big tick for the work we have undertaken since 1999 on dragging courts into the modern era.

"The report doesn’t say the job is done. For example, we need to do better in showing New Zealanders that we are cracking down on people who don't pay their court imposed fines or reparations.

"While more fines are being ordered for courts to collect than ever before by more fines-issuing authorities than ever before, year on year courts are collecting more in real dollar terms and by proportion than ever before, and this is positive.

"Since the survey was carried out we have introduced the high profile 'Pay or Stay' campaign which has reinforced the fact we take the collection of fines and reparation seriously- they won't just go away, you will have to pay.

"We also need to ensure that courts continue to reduce waiting times and backlogs. Work is being undertaken by using mechanisms such as the National High Court Roster that allows Judges to determine where to apply Judicial resource when and where it is needed most. As well as this, we need to continue with initiatives such as the queue reduction strategy trialled in Auckland that had positive results.

"In general, courts have done a good job, moving from the Victorian-age under a government that didn’t care about it, to a modern, functioning, effective system that delivers against the ever changing needs of our communities.

"The work will continue into the future and I am confident that the incremental improvement being made over time will continue under the stewardship of Ministry of Justice staff committed to ensuring New Zealand has a world leading court system," said Rick Barker.

Note: The Survey can be found here


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