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Source: New Zealand Ministry of Justice

Headline: Data of COVID-19 Alert Level 4 effect on District Court released

New Ministry of Justice figures indicate the extent to which the District Court, including the Family Court and Youth Court, has maintained an essential service for priority matters during COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

Review the figures here [PDF, 439 KB]

“The District Court is New Zealand’s busiest court. During the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions, the justice system, including courts, were an essential service.

These figures show that the courts adapted to deal with priority proceedings during lockdown restrictions when the ability to hold court hearings was severely constrained,” says Andrew Kibblewhite, Secretary for Justice.

Priority proceedings included those affecting the liberty of the individual; protection of the at-risk or vulnerable (including children); national and community safety; and facilitating and promoting public order.

The figures compare data during COVID-19 Alert Level 4 (26 March to 27 April 2020) with a baseline period four weeks prior to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 (24 February –22 March 2020).

Among other things, the figures show that at the end of COVID-19 Alert Level 4:

  • 31,712 District Court events (across the criminal, family and civil jurisdictions) were adjourned or rescheduled due to COVID-19 during Alert Level 4.
  • 4,772 (13%) more criminal cases are waiting to be resolved in the District Court. An increase in active criminal cases has occurred in every area of the country.
  • 22% fewer criminal charges were filed in the District Court during COVID-19 Alert Level 4. Of the 13,454 charges filed, 608 were for breaching lockdown requirements.
  • 54% fewer Family Court applications were filed during COVID-19 Alert Level 4. A higher proportion than usual were filed without notice. The figures provided on the Family Court do not include work that was done ‘on the papers’.

“The courts steadily expanded their operations during COVID-19 Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 3 and are completing more court events. But as the Chief District Court Judge has stated, it is not back to business-as-usual yet,” Mr Kibblewhite says.

“The Ministry is continuing to work hard to support the judiciary to increase its work as much as is practicable while Level 2 physical distancing and hygiene requirements continue to constrain normal operations.”

“The move to Alert Level 4 not only affected individuals and their cases but impacted the volume of matters that could be progressed in all court jurisdictions, and the Ministry is also working closely with the judiciary on how to address this,” he said.

At Alert Level 2, health and safety measures in court buildings remain stringent as per Ministry of Health guidelines.

“I want to again thank our people, the judiciary, the legal profession and justice sector agencies for their work to ensure continued access to justice through priority proceedings and progressing as much work as feasible beyond those during this period,” Mr Kibblewhite says.

The Ministry plans to publish data from the COVID-19 Alert Level 3 period, and future alert levels.

ENDS

Media contact:
Hannah Mills – 021 636 416

Further details on how the District Court is operating at Alert Level 2 is available on the District Courts of New Zealand website.(external link)

Court protocols are also available on the Courts of New Zealand site.(external link)

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