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Access to justice

Judge David Harvey referred to the Court system presently in his article “Closing the gap using technology” as “clumsy, creaking, archaic process”.

In my direct knowledge this includes lawyers being accused of not filing affidavits and documents in accordance with directions only to be subsequently told that it had been “misfiled”. Whilst the politically correct semaphore for a system which is in a state of near constant “failure” means one might be forgiven for the overwhelming sense of negative outlook towards the New Zealand Ministry of Justice.

If one for the briefest of moments looks at The United States Public Access to Court Electronic Records known as Pacer and one visits and perseveres for a few minutes it is clear that the United States has provided for a system which actually works.

Whilst the government’s record in wasting millions of dollars with the failed police INCIS project and the failed computer Novopay project has underlined a reasonable public expectation as to the inability of the New Zealand Government to manage a large scale computer architecture installation it is apparent that the cost to the public of this demonstrated inability cannot be excused when all of the architecture and functionality has already been developed and is in place working in the United States.

One might also pause to suggest that those persons who developed the Landonline computer architecture successfully broke the norm.

I took the time to refer Pacer to Amy Adams, the Minister of Justice, last year but essentially received no reply or indication of commitment to this long overdue problem of implementing a working court infrastructure (electronic or otherwise).

It is my respectful view that whatever the debate is in terms of closing the gap to “access to justice” is it would kind of be nice if it actually addressed one real issue, which is the need for a significant enhancement in the performance of the Ministry of Justice, particularly in relation to the appropriate implementation of technology.

Russell Lawn

Impacted by a curmudgeon

“Spark” the brand manager’s one syllable “Telecom” recently wrote to me about its broadband charges.

The letter’s heading read Industry price charges will impact New Zealanders. Then it said: “But these changes impact the whole industry …”

Then in the District Court Rules 2014 Part 4 Subpart 6, dealing with certain capacities, the heading reads Impact of certain capacities. The words “effect” and “result”, “consequence” or even “incidence” have clarity, nuance and precision. It is astonishing to see the loose use of the word “impact” in a regulatory instrument.

Our media’s use of the word impact, impacted and impacting abounds and grates.

Going on a quest for more details on the misuse of impact brings one to Fowler, who described impact as a media ‘vogue’ word (H W Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern Usage 2nd ed revised by Sir Ernest Gowers, OUP 1968). He thought when he wrote, in 1926, that “the metaphor was not quite dead for it to be an incongruity”. The metaphor has long since died.

A further quest takes one to the University of Lake Superior’s banned list of words, which is an annual compilation.

“Impact” was sentenced to the list in 1990 but it seems to have taken some 26 years to seep across the Pacific. The entry reads:

Impact – (The most nominations) – “The effect of a sledge hammer has on a brick wall, or a car on a utility pole. Those who use it otherwise probably don’t know the difference between ‘effect’ and ‘affect.’” (Ed.: Too many times we’re subjected to a radio or television news reader saying something like: “We’ll soon know how we’re to be impacted by the rising costs of groceries.” Perhaps the impact of a good slap in the head would curtail such irritating misuse of language.)

The 2016 list is now out at

I remain waiting and despairing for Spark’s impaction and the end of the known literate world.

Graham Hill

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