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Court overhaul comes with human cost


  • Court overhaul comes with human cost

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    Today’s announcement that the Government is closing some provincial courts and restricting the operating hours of others will impact on the ability of ordinary New Zealanders to access the justice system, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel says.

    "Labour is all for a more efficient justice system, but today's announcements are plainly driven by cost-cutting, not by a desire for better services.

    “E-Justice certainly has a catchy ring to it, but as with anything that looks to save money – and we’re talking 90,000 hours here - there’s a human cost. That will be both the court staff who lose their jobs and the staff who have to take on the extra workload.

    "National has already shown that it neither understands nor cares about the importance of open access to justice for every New Zealander when they need it. Over the past year, we've seen a sustained assault on that principle take a number of forms:

    Cuts to legal aid, making it more difficult for low and fixed income New Zealanders to get advice and representation, along with threatened changes to the workings of community law centres.

    A range of hefty new fees, already announced and implemented for the family court, and to be put in place across the rest of the system shortly.
    An end to funded services like family mediation, counsel for the child and family court translators, shifting extra burdens onto troubled families with at-risk children.

    A refusal to appoint sufficient numbers of judges, including those on an acting warrant, meaning that delays in hearings are becoming institutionalised. The 900 jury trials backed up between the Manukau and Auckland Central District Courts are an example of this.Cuts to prosecution service budgets across the country.

    "Everyone understands the vital role that local courts play in their community. The closure of any inevitably means hundreds of people involved in either family or criminal proceedings will be disadvantaged.

    “Today's cuts are in line with what we've already seen by way of National's commitment to the Justice sector. Instead of asking how to deliver the best services to Kiwis, National simply asks how to cut costs.

    "The result is a justice system that is increasingly unable to live up to its name,” Charles Chauvel said
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