The Ministry of Justice says the use of audio visual links (AVL) connecting courts and prisons for remand appearances has increased by more than 50% over the past two years.
In the year to June 2017 more than 18,200 remand court appearances were held via AVL, compared to just over 12,000 the previous year.
General Manager, Courts and Tribunals Regional Service Delivery Jacquelyn Shannon says virtual appearances make courts safer by reducing the likelihood of violent incidents.
“It’s also much more convenient and cost-efficient removing the need for prisoners to be escorted to court, placed in a holding cell and then returned to prison.”
Ms Shannon says while there the use of AVL has generally been trending up over the last two years, the Judicature Modernisation legislation which passed through Parliament late last year is likely to have had a significant effect on the increase in recent months.
“This legislation meant that from 1 March AVL must be used for procedural appearances in the criminal jurisdiction where a defendant is in custody and the technology is available, unless a judicial officer or a Registrar determines that the use of AVL is contrary to the interests of justice,” she says.
The AVL network connects 21 courts to 15 prisons throughout New Zealand.