New Zealand Law Society - Ministry of Justice working on speeding up case resolution

Ministry of Justice working on speeding up case resolution

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The Ministry of Justice is working to improve timeframes for the court system, including extensive work with the judiciary, who managed case scheduling and rostering, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee has heard.

In its report on the 2017/18 Estimates for Vote Justice and Vote Courts, the committee says going through the New Zealand court system can be a time-consuming process.

"For example, we heard that, on average, it takes 266 days to resolve a care of children application. We asked the ministry what it is doing to speed up the resolution of court cases." 

The committee says the ministry's work involves analysing each part of the court process, with timeframes between different courts with comparable cases being compared.

"We heard that there has been a particular increase in category 3 cases, as well as the number of adjournments sought over different types of cases," it says.

"The Minister acknowledged that there is also a need to work with both prosecution and defence lawyers so that they understand the effect that delaying their cases has on the overall court system."

Family Court law reforms

The committee's report also comments on the 2014 Family Court law reforms. It says the Ministry of Justice has just started reviewing the effect of these reforms on the Family Court.

"We are very interested in the outcome of this review and asked the Minister whether the public would have an opportunity to make submissions. The Minister said that it was too early in the process to say but that it would be considered if the review identifies significant issues."

The committee considered the Backbone Collective report "Out of the frying pan and into the fire", noting that it concluded that the majority of women surveyed did not feel safe during the Family Court process.

The committee says the Minister of Justice said that although the ministry would consider the report as part of the review, she was hesitant to draw widespread conclusions about the practices of the court based on the one report.

"The Minister noted that much of the report focused on the conduct of the judiciary and wanted to clarify that the judiciary is constitutionally separate from the executive. It is not the Minister's role to comment on the way judges run their courts, roster cases, or make decisions about those cases," the report says.

"The review will focus on the effect of the 2014 reforms, not the judiciary's decision-making process."