There is a need to streamline court processes, in part to reduce the unacceptably long delays that are too often experienced in getting cases heard. Part of the problem would seem to lie in the reduced resourcing of courts due to ill-advised cost-cutting measures, and the loss of experienced staff that has been a consequence. It is also clear that experiments with centralising file management have failed, and should be abandoned.
The ‘e-bench’ project has stalled, and there needs to be an analysis of why that project failed so that a programme of developing the means to ‘digitise’ can proceed in a way that improves the accessibility and efficiency of court and judicial processes.
Democrats for Social Credit
We have not carried out a comprehensive review of the legislation that came into operation in March, but generally support the legislation’s efforts to improve the courts and processes. We think the Courts & Tribunals Enhanced Services Bill contains some useful enhancements to the current system. We consider the Family Courts to be underfunded and would address that as a priority.
NZ Outdoors Party
In response to every question we would say we have no experience in these areas and would look to organisations like yours for expert advice should it be needed. We just don’t want to have policy for policy sake not really knowing what the issues are. We do believe in the rule of law and have been most disappointed by the Government’s suggestions of legislating to negate the Ruataniwha Dam High Court decision. The Outdoors Party will be standing a number of candidates and contesting the party vote emphasising our experience and knowledge of the environment.
We currently support an amendment to the Sentencing Act 2002 to promote and shift more towards community-based sentences. Specifically, we believe that Section 15A(1)(b) of the Act in question to refer to a specific period of three years instead of the term being used “short-term sentence”, which as it stands means two years. This is because we believe that a judge should have more freedom to decide whether a community-based sentence is more appropriate and will gain a better outcome for the criminal on trial and right now a judge cannot exercise discretion when a sentence of two more years is required, since imprisonment must be imposed in this case.
We also support the Law Commission’s recommendations provided by Yvette Tinsley and Elisabeth McDonald in considering alternative trial process in sexual assault cases. For instance, we support the idea of specialist judges and counsel involved in sexual assault cases which will make the outcome of cases much more clear. However, we oppose the recommendation to make legislative changes to allow finders of fact to draw adverse inferences from a defendant’s failure to be a witness.
NZ People’s Party
Any traffic offence currently dealt with by the courts where the maximum punishment is a fine would be moved to an automatic fine by police. Removing these sort of cases from the court system would help to unclog it. We are also supportive of the move to have the “right to silence” removed. Juries should be able to take into account when an accused has refused to cooperate with police.
Review the Disputes Tribunal to improve its performance by encouraging the appointment of legally qualified referees, and ensuring the adequacy of training for non-legally qualified referees. Much greater use of online documents must be achieved, using secure and trackable systems, and the greater use of technology to reduce the amount of court hearing time.
NZ First seeks real and enduring solutions to offending. These require programmes to curb anti-social behaviour and remove economic deprivation, consistently over time.
We would seek the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission.
We would ensure that adequate counselling is reintroduced in the Family Court.
New Zealand First would:
- Ensure an accused can be re-tried for a crime where it is proved that an acquittal, or a change to a lesser offence, has resulted from intimidation perjury or the bribery of a victim, witness or juror,
- Remove concurrent sentences for those guilty of rape and for those who commit offences while on parole, on bail, or whilst in custody,
- Strengthen monitoring requirements in relation to community-based sentences,
- Review the adequacy of maximum sentences for serious criminal offences,
- Increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders.
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
Ending the war on all drugs and treating drug use as a health issue not a criminal matter would greatly unclog the courts with spin off benefits. For example, a drug addict will not have to commit a crime to feed their drug habit.
The 2011 Law Commission Report basically stated that cannabis use is a health issue not a criminal matter.
In addition, to the answers provided in question one, the party would:
- Establish Kooti Māori that encourages kaupapa-based approaches to dealing with whenua and whānau,
- Introduce therapeutic-based treatment and courts that invest in long-term reintegration and rehabilitation post-release,
- Set a target to reduce the prison muster by 25% by 2025,
- Repeal the Three Strikes Legislation, Sentencing and Parole, and Victims Rights Acts,
- Repeal the Bail Amendment Act to reduce the level of people on remand,
- Review sentencing laws to restrict prison to an option of last resort,
- Provide more funding and resources to support Marae-based youth court and restorative justice programmes,
- Repeal the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentences Prisoners) Amendment Bill,
- Place a moratorium on the building of new prisons and expand the provision of Whare Oranga Ake and Māori Focus Units in existing prisons,
- Support whānau facilitators to work closely with iwi and hapū within the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agencies,
- Provide funding to run te reo Māori and tikanga programmes in all prisons and programmes to support prisoners reintegrating back into the community,
- Expand the Passports to Life initiative to all paroled offenders and prisoners on probation to support them to get a driver’s licence, identification, bank account or CV.
Courts and court processes are crucial to the functioning of the justice system, so it is important that they are effective, efficient, accessible, and responsive.
Labour is always open to considering proposals to improve the court system and its processes. We will also invest in evidence based alternatives to the ‘traditional’ court system, including drug and alcohol courts and other therapeutic courts.
We have no set plan for this but recognise the need for improvement as mentioned in our Justice Policy. We would explore any possible options such as night courts, minor misdemeanours being heard by qualified people other than judges e.g. JPs with specific training, senior law students as a practicum, etc
Actively promote non-judicial case resolution (mediation or arbitration) for civil cases, making it a compulsory first step prior to court action.
Support alternative and specialist courts (like drug courts).
Ensure cases are heard in a timely manner, including ensuring sufficient funding for analysis of evidence.
Improve co-operation between New Zealand and Australia to manage citizens that commit crime overseas, including notification at sentencing, and legislative cooperation to ensure that parole and post-sentencing regimes may be enforced on repatriated nationals.
Monitor, review and update the Department of Correction’s Transgender Prisoner policy to reflect international best practice about placement, care and management of trans prisoners to ensure their right to safety, and access to health services and rehabilitation on an equal basis as others.
The Opportunities Party
The Opportunities Party has no specific policies on improving the court process. However, we are committed to the rule of law and the right of every New Zealander to affordable and effective access to justice. That means an independent and adequately funded judiciary. If everyone is bound by and entitled to the benefit of the law then everyone should be able to go to court to have the court determine their rights and liabilities. Or, when charged with a criminal offence, get a fair trial. Our criminal justice policy would save money by reducing the prison population, and so relieve pressure on the justice sector budget. With some of the money saved we want to expand three successful parts of the court system: restorative justice, AODT courts and the Youth Court. AODT courts have been a judiciary led project. The main limit on them is funding. Over the next two years we want funds provided to increase the number of AODT courts from two to seven. We are also want to raise the Youth Court age to 20 so that 14 to 19 year-olds are dealt with in the way currently that 14 to 16-year-olds are dealt with.
The National-led Government has introduced a number of measures aimed at improving the courts and court processes, including the national rollout of audio-visual links and a single point of contact for court customers to call. It is important to remember that much of the practise and operation of courts sits with the independent judiciary and Government’s role relates primarily to the legislative frameworks under which they operate.
ACT believes in a justice system that targets violent offenders and puts victims at the forefront of focus. ACT believes specialist courts such a drug courts are a great way to help non-violent offenders onto the route of rehabilitation and to relieve pressure on traditional courts. It has always been a priority of the ACT party that core government services such as police and courts should be the main focus of politicians – the wider justice apparatus should work for families, not bureaucrats.