Ongoing lightning strikes in our court system are having serious repercussions, National’s Courts spokesperson Chris Penk says.
“Chief Judge for the District Court, Jan-Marie Doogue has said that as a result of lightning strikes ‘there may very well be a miscarriage of justice arising out of undue delay’.
“The Minister told Parliament that Chief Judge Doogue’s assessment is ‘just her opinion’, proving the Government isn’t taking this issue seriously.
“The Secretary for Justice has also said that the strike action undertaken by court staff is ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unsafe’.
“There has even been violence in the Christchurch District Court, with an alleged assault against a person who would have appeared by audio-visual link, but the industrial action meant they had to appear in person.
“In response to written questions about the impact of the strikes, the Minister stated that he does not know how many court sitting hours have been lost or how many cases have had to be rescheduled as a result of strike action.
This is despite the Chief Judge of the District Court’s decision that judges should ‘place clearly on the court record whenever a case is deferred or adjourned because of the dispute, to enable more accurate assessment of its impact’.
“These strikes are seriously disrupting our courts system and delaying people from receiving a fair hearing.
“The Minister needs to ensure that integrity of our courts system is maintained and that justice is properly serviced.”
The Government’s review of the 2014 Family Court reforms will be worthwhile only if it confronts the issues that had led to those reforms in the first place, National’s Courts spokesperson Chris Penk says.
“The 2014 reforms were intended to empower more families to resolve their issues outside the Family Court and minimise the stress children inevitably face when their parents separate.
“It’s important to assess whether these reforms have been achieving the intended outcomes which is why the previous National Government had asked for a review, acknowledging the possibility of further reform.
“National is supportive of Justice Minister Andrew Little picking up this work and of any proposed changes that will help the Family Court to get the best possible outcomes for families.
“But Mr Little must acknowledge that the 2014 reforms were about ensuring the Family Court focuses on the cases most needing judicial expertise, especially those involving family violence.
“Any changes must not only address the rise in the number of without notice applications but also ensure that we do not see an increase in the number of people going to court unnecessarily.”