The Government is taking action to address the backlog of cases across the court system following the COVID-19 lockdown period, Minister of Justice Andrew Little announced today.
A $50 million investment is being made from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to provide for five District Court judges, four acting High Court judges, one acting Associate judge and around 40 fulltime support staff.
The funding also provides for extra Police prosecution staff to support more criminal events in court; two extra Corrections prison officers to support those held on remand and for transport to-and-from court or AVL appearances; further resource for Oranga Tamariki for the increase in care and protection of children applications; and a small investment in Crown Law for increased Crown prosecution work.
“COVID-19 has meant a number of core public services face funding pressures due to lower revenue, or backlogs due to the lockdown. Courts have been particularly affected due to an inability to hold trials during the lockdown,” Andrew Little said.
“The additional funding reinforces that addressing the COVID-19 impact is going to take a collective effort. The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for a while, but this investment will relieve the pressure on the court system,” Andrew Little said.
“This funding also means Courts will have the resources to deal with COVID-related cases, like for lock-down breaches. People who put lives at risk by thinking the rules didn’t apply to them need to realise the consequences that their actions could have meant for the team of five million.
“Due to COVID-19, over 47,000 District Court events were adjourned or rescheduled. There was a 62 percent drop in disposed cases during Alert Level 4 – that’s over 6,000 fewer cases being closed. While the courts have worked hard to get this backlog to pre-COVID levels, there will continue to be a delay in jury trials and Family Court proceedings.
“The delay in some matters coming to court was already unacceptable; COVID-19 has compounded things and put a strain on an already-struggling justice system. Together, the judiciary and Ministry of Justice staff have worked hard to continue essential court operations during lockdown and, as much as possible, ensure people are getting timely access to justice.
“This package will make a significant difference to those who have had their court cases delayed due to COVID-19, and help the court system tackle the backlog,” Andrew Little said.