New Zealand Law Society - Extra safety steps to be taken as District Courts re-open

Extra safety steps to be taken as District Courts re-open

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The Chief District Court Judge says extra steps will be taken to ensure the safety of court participants and observance of COVID-19 Alert Level 3 restrictions when the court re-opens to the public on Tuesday 28 April.

In a statement, Judge Heemi Taumaunu says while the move to Alert Level 3 gives the District Court an opportunity to do more work than it could under Alert Level 4, it will still be operating at reduced capacity.

He says there will be screening at entrances to carefully control and limit numbers coming into court. Physical distancing and hygiene protocols, including extra cleaning, will be observed within courtrooms and court precincts.

“To stagger the numbers, those on bail and due to attend court will be, to the extent possible, allocated times to appear, spread throughout the day. This should minimise any need for people to queue before they are screened and permitted to enter,” Judge Taumaunu says.

“On Tuesday, the number of people attending court on bail is not expected to be large. We are expecting fewer than 70 people staggered throughout the day to attend in response to their bail conditions at Auckland District Court, and even fewer at Manukau – our two biggest courts.”

Other points from Judge Taumaunau’s letter include:

  • Lawyers with business at court, accredited media, and stakeholders, will not be required to queue and will be allowed to enter before others waiting outside.
  • The District Court will continue to deal with people in custody, but using AVL as much as possible.
  • Few, if any, Judge Alone Trials are expected to be heard during the first week at Alert Level 3.
  • The court will also be sensitive to difficulties lawyers may experience in taking instructions from clients or briefing witnesses. The court accepts that this may result in some cases having to be adjourned.
  • Extra space will be made available for lawyer-client interviews by using vacant courtrooms whenever interview rooms are too small for physical distancing.
  • PPE will be available to anyone who asks for it, and people may also use their own PPE if they choose.