Assessment of the effectiveness and fairness of New Zealand's court system needs good data and analytics and building this capability has been a big priority for the Ministry of Justice over the last four years, Secretary for Justice Andrew Bridgman says.
In a introduction to the ministry's annual report for the year to 30 June 2018, Mr Bridgman says data allows measurement of how well the system is delivering for the people who use it.
"It also provides us with evidence to base decisions on. For example, the volume of new criminal cases in the District Court has decreased by 4%, but the workload has actually grown due to increasing complexity and an increase in the number of events before a case is disposed of.
"We are dealing with approximately 50,000 more District Court events in criminal cases than 5 years ago. We have managed to maintain increased productivity through a range of initiatives, including targeted allocation of resources, the use of Local Justice Sector Networks to ensure each court can take accountability for performance and improvement initiatives, and providing good data so managers can access their performance metrics."
He says another example is data showing that only 10% of scheduled judge-alone trials in the District Court’s criminal jurisdiction actually go ahead on the day.
"The biggest single reason for that is adjournments: nearly one in three scheduled trials are adjourned on the day they are set down for. An analysis of the reasons for adjournments shows that delays occur for a number of reasons – no one participant is responsible for all delays and we all have a role in ensuring that hearings can go ahead as planned. There has been some helpful commentary in the sector canvassing how case review hearings work and the potential for participants to address more at that stage before the trial begins."
Mr Bridgman says data also highlights strong performance. He notes that in the year to 30 June 2018, District Court criminal cases that were more than three years old had decreased by 83% since June 2013. The average age of less serious active criminal cases had dropped by over 50% for category 1 cases and by nearly 7% for category 2 cases. High Court disposals increased by 15%.
"We are close to achieving a Gartner Information Maturity Level 4 rating, which is the goal we set ourselves in 2014 to be achieved by December 2018. Achieving level 4 indicates that data is well-integrated across the ministry, is trusted and acted on to drive strategic change, and data governance structures are well established."