New Zealand Law Society - Sexual Violence Court pilot to continue

Sexual Violence Court pilot to continue

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Initial data from a sexual violence court pilot in Auckland and Whangarei District Courts indicates that cases in the pilot courts are proceeding to trial faster than sexual violence trials in the previous year, and faster than jury trials not in the pilot in Auckland and Whangarei.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue says after the pilot's first year, judges are reporting that having dedicated case managers for pilot cases is contributing to better case management.

She says the pilot is producing benefits as well as those related to trial management, especially by enriching judicial knowledge and understanding of sexual complaints and witnesses through enhanced education. A second, specially devised education programme is due to start in January, and includes District Court judges outside the pilot.

"Judges also report that the quality of witness evidence has improved across both pilot and non-pilot courts as a result. This augers well for the pilot to drive improvements right across the entire District Court."

The pilot has been running for a year and is scheduled to continue for at least another 12 months.

It applies pro-active best-practice trial management to all serious (Category 3) sexual violence cases in the Auckland and Whangarei District Courts to be heard by a jury, combined with enhanced judicial education, to reduce delays and improve the court experience for participants.

The pilot cases are run within existing law, and Chief Judge Doogue stresses that fair trial rights remain paramount.

Chief Judge Doogue leads the pilot and is advised by a governance board of senior trial judges who have developed best practice guidelines to drive tighter pre-trial case management.

The pilot has an aspirational goal of bringing cases to trial within six months of callover.

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