New Zealand Courts should have therapy dogs available for children and vulnerable people participating in the system, National’s Courts spokesperson Chris Penk says.
“It can often be a traumatic experience for victims participating in the courts system. In some cases they are facing someone who committed crimes against them, in other cases it can be parents fighting for custody over children. These can be stressful and emotional situations.
“We should be supporting victims and others who are participating in the Court system, often through no fault of their own, by providing trained therapy dogs to make their experience more comfortable and less re-traumatising.
“Trained therapy dogs make the Court experience easier, particularly for children and victims of violent and sexual offending.
“Louie the Tauranga District Court Dog was a much loved and hardworking Court therapy dog, and many people appreciated having him near. Unfortunately he passed away last year. I want to see dogs like Louie supporting children and victims across New Zealand.
“National recently released its Law and Order Discussion Document. This is one part of our plan to put victims at the heart of our Justice system.
“It’s time the Government committed to every court having dogs like Louie available.”
National is today proposing performance measures for District and High Courts to ensure justice is served faster, National’s Courts spokesperson Chris Penk says.
“The overwhelming complaint we hear about the justice system is how long it takes to get things done. Even paying a fine can take days. Data from the Ministry of Justice shows since the Government took office it’s taking 46.5 per cent longer to get through cases in the District Court than under National. Those delays put additional stress on victims of crime who want to move on.
“We believe there is room to trial performance measures in District and High Courts to speed things up. We also want to ensure sexual violence cases are dealt with within 12 months. These are similar to performance measures the previous National Government used to improve access to treatment and screening at District Health Boards.
“We’d also like to see Justices of the Peace used more for minor offences and traffic cases to free up judges time and courts used at night and on weekends. Most courts sit for four hours a day. Where there is legitimate need, and where the Court can sit, we would extend those hours to ensure people don’t have to wait months for their cases to be heard.
“We’re doing the work in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020. National is the party of law and order. We put victims at the heart of everything we do and we want to see a courts system which delivers justice faster and more effectively.”
A petition to ensure that surf lifesaving is recognised and funded as an emergency service has been launched today by Helensville MP Chris Penk.
“Surf lifesaving is a vital service provided by thousands of Kiwi volunteers.
“Surf lifesaving clubs currently rely on funding from a combination of sporting and community grants, fundraising efforts and private sponsorship.
“This means surf lifesaving is forced to compete with sporting and community organisations. As a result, it’s difficult for clubs to make long-term plans and focus on the vital services they provide to their communities.
“This summer, I am calling on the Government to recognise surf lifesaving as an essential emergency service and allocate funding directly, to ensure our clubs remain active and sustainable into the future.
“My electorate includes all the surf lifesaving clubs on Auckland’s west coast so I’m keen to see them supported in this way. My National MP colleagues feel the same and I’m confident that all Kiwis will get behind our brave and dedicated surf lifesavers.”
The petition can be signed here: https://chrispenk.national.org.nz/support_surf_lifesaving
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.”