Dunedin barrister and President of the Criminal Bar Association Len Andersen says industrial action in the country’s courts has been an “absolute disaster” in the Otago city.
One PSA-instigated lightning strike occurred in Dunedin last Friday and there has been a work to rule in place since mid-September. Similar situations have occurred around the country.
“We’ve had cases adjourned, because what’s happened here is that the court isn’t starting till quarter to 11 in all the Dunedin courts with less than 2 ½ hours of sitting time a day. The court is closed for periods during the day when staff take their breaks with the public excluded. Cases are being put off, particularly fixtures because there is not enough time to get them heard in a day. The situation is worse with multi-day fixtures,” says Mr Andersen (right).
“It is fortunate that there have been no jury trials go ahead as they would be completely impractical with the restricted hours.”
He was in court in Manukau last week which “didn’t seem to be significantly affected” by the action, so “I think it depends on what action is being taken in different courts and how strong the union is in each court”.
“The effect in Dunedin is that sentencings and trials that have been adjourned through a lack of sitting time.
“Lawyers are quite conflicted because they understand that the court staff appear to be very poorly paid for the responsibilty they have and there’s a lot of sympathy for their claim for increased pay. However, clients are suffering as a result of the action.”
Mr Andersen says, however, there’s little the legal profession can do about it.
“It is an industrial dispute and I just don’t see how lawyers can get involved, and lawyers have to do the best in the time available and hope that it will get settled soon.”