New Zealand Law Society - Human Rights Tribunal "overwhelmed"

Human Rights Tribunal "overwhelmed"

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The Human Rights Tribunal has been for some time overwhelmed by a caseload well beyond its capacity to address, information obtained by the NZ Herald website under the Official Information Act states.

A letter from Tribunal chairperson Rodger Haines QC to incoming Justice Minister Andrew Little on 3 November 2017 says parties "are presently waiting between 16 and 19 months for a first case management conference and can expect an overall delay of between 22 and 28 months from the filing of the proceedings to the hearing date.

"Access to justice is being denied to almost all. For a tribunal charged with protecting human rights the situation is ironic, to say the least," Mr Haines says.

He also says the solution proposed in the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Bill - currently being considered by a select committee - is misconceived and will not solve the problem.

Mr Haines says the solution lies "in making the simplest of changes" to a single section in the Human Rights Act 1993.

"All that is required is a minor amendment to section 102 of the Act removing the anomalous restriction on the appointment of deputy chairs to assist with the workload," he says.

Mr Haines says the Privacy Commissioner has written to the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Justice pointing out that the delays in the Tribunal will jeopardise the proposed reforms to the Privacy Act (a bill to reform the Act is now before Parliament).

"The Director of Human Rights Proceedings has also written expressing his concern at the long delays and their impact on the functions of his Office. Both support the amendment sought by the Tribunal."