A number of changes to the rules relating to access to documents in District and senior Courts plus a range of other provisions - including powers to strike out proceedings before service in the High Court - will come into force on 1 September 2017, after Orders in Council were made on 7 August 2017.
The District Court (Access to Court Documents) Rules 2017 will replace the substantive provisions of Part 3 of the District Court Rules and Part 6 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2012 from 1 September.
The new provisions follow concern that the existing rules are "unduly complex" and do not give enough guidance about the approach to be taken when assessing requests from the public for access to court documents.
The new rules simplify the provisions setting out the court documents that may be accessed, by whom, and how and when they may be accessed. They include more specific guidance for Judges about how they are to balance different considerations when assessing requests for access to documents.
The rules align with the Senior Courts (Access to Court Documents) Rules 2017, which also come into force on 1 September 2017.
Changes to District Court rules
The amendments are both substantive and to correct drafting mistakes.
The High Court Rules 2016 Amendment Rules (No 2) 2017 make amendments to the High Court Rules from 1 September 2017. There are 16 amendments to existing rules, two rules are replaced with three new rules, and three new rules are added.
Striking out proceeding before service in High Court
New rules 5.35A to 5.35C relate to striking out a proceeding before service. Theyprovide for a Registrar who believes that a proceeding accepted for filing is, on the face of it, plainly an abuse of the process of the court to refer the proceeding to a Judge for consideration before releasing the documents that would enable the proceeding to be served.
If the Judge to whom the proceeding is referred is satisfied that the proceeding is plainly an abuse of the process of the court, the Judge may make an order striking out the proceeding before it is served and unnecessary costs are incurred by any person named as a party to the proceeding.
Alternatively, the Judge may make orders or give directions for the purpose of ensuring that the proceeding is conducted in a way that complies with the principal rules. The new rules also incorporate a number of powers and obligations.