Courts are in crisis

The Court system is currently in a state of crisis says National Party Spokesperson for Courts, Chris Penk.

“The current lockdown has seen 47,000 court events adjourned and has resulted in a backlog of 3,000 jury trials. New Zealanders deserve access to the justice system in a timely fashion.

“In answers to my written parliamentary questions, we know that 27,970 criminal court cases and 656 civil court cases were postponed just between 18 August and 30 September.

“Covid lockdowns have forced the postponement of court cases at all levels of the judicial system. We’ve also seen a postponement of a raft of tribunal cases such as 1,476 Dispute Tribunal cases having been postponed and 497 Tenancy Tribunal matters having required adjournment.

“We knew Covid wasn’t going away. We knew about Delta. This Government failed to prepare the justice system for future lockdowns so only has themselves to blame. The Minister for Courts has been forced to admit that he has not even met with officials to discuss the COVID-19 Protection Framework and nor has the government made any decisions about vaccine mandates for those working at courts and tribunals, including witnesses and jurors. This uncertainty is debilitating for a system already in crisis.

“The delays are now stretching far into the future with no end in sight.

“Every New Zealander has the right to their day in court in an assured and safe setting. The current delays in access to justice and uncertainty are frankly not good enough.”

You can see answers to Written Parliamentary Questions below:

Reply 50219
Portfolio: Courts (Hon Aupito William Sio)
Question: How many disputes tribunal cases, if any, have had to be postponed since 17 August 2021 due to the heightened COVID-19 Alert levels?
Reply: I am advised 1,476 Dispute Tribunal cases have had to be postponed between 17 August 2021 and 30 September 2021. Please note the data from 1 October 2021 to 3 November 2021 is not yet available.

Reply 50218
Portfolio: Courts (Hon Aupito William Sio)
Question: How many tenancy tribunal cases, if any, have had to be postponed since 17 August 2021 due to the heightened COVID-19 Alert levels?
Reply: Due to heightened COVID-19 Alert Levels, since 17 August 2021 a total of 497 matters already scheduled to be heard by the Tenancy Tribunal have required adjournment. A further 253 matters have been adjourned and are being held until in-person hearings are permitted again under COVID-19 guidelines.

Reply 50237
Portfolio: Courts (Hon Aupito William Sio)
Question: Has the Minister discussed the effects of the Covid-19 Alert Levels or the Covid-19 Protection Framework on the courts with officials since 1 September 2021, and if so, what were the effects raised?
Reply: I have not had any meetings with my officials to specifically discuss the COVID-19 Protection Framework. However, I regularly discuss the response to COVID-19 and its effect on the courts in my fortnightly meetings with officials from the Ministry of Justice.

Reply 50220
Portfolio: Courts (Hon Aupito William Sio)
Question: What decisions, if any, have been had regarding vaccination mandates for New Zealand's court and tribunal systems and if there have been no decisions made, on what date can we expect a decision?
Reply: The Government has not yet made decisions on vaccination mandates in relation to New Zealand’s courts and tribunals system.