New Zealand Law Society - Chief District Court Judge’s statement on District Court protocol at Level 2

Chief District Court Judge’s statement on District Court protocol at Level 2

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The Chief District Court Judge has issued a new protocol to guide New Zealand’s biggest court as it continues to deliver an essential service during Alert Level 2 of the pandemic response.

Chief Judge Heemi Taumaunu says when the District Court Protocol at Alert Level 2 comes into force on Monday 18 May, the Court will continue to aim to undertake as much additional work as possible to those proceedings given priority during Alert Levels 3 and 4.

However, the extent of this may remain significantly constrained by the need to operate safely within the COVID-19 emergency restrictions, particularly relating to the vigilance around physical distancing and keeping public and registry-work areas scrupulously clean.

“The District Court Protocol at Alert Level 2 outlines the reinforced measures the court is taking to safely manage the expected influx of people as the court steadily but cautiously extends its work,” Judge Taumaunu says.  “The protocol recognises there are likely to be regional variations. With my approval, local solutions will be necessary to best address local issues.”

The new protocol makes clear that the increase in numbers will depend on the capacity of each courthouse to accommodate them safely.

Courts will take steps to avoid unnecessary appearances; schedule in-person attendance to assist safe distancing; limit in-person attendances to those that will substantively advance proceedings; and continue to use remote participation where practicable and appropriate. It also sets out the order of priority for criminal work in those courts that cannot operate at full capacity.

Chief Judge Taumaunu says the District Court will observe strict hygiene practices alongside one-metre physical distancing, and screening, orderly queuing and a COVID-19 contact-tracing register at court entrances.