New bill paves way for 21st century justice

  • Judith Collins

A new bill introduced to Parliament today will help modernise the law underpinning New Zealand’s courts so they better meet public expectations for 21st century services.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Judicature Modernisation Bill aims to bring the outdated law governing our courts up to speed, improve the transparency of court and judicial processes and enhance public trust and confidence in the justice system.

“New Zealand is experiencing the lowest crime rate in 33 years. We now have the opportunity to focus on the underlying causes of crime and crime prevention, modernise our operating model, and build a more customer-focused, lower cost and more accessible justice system.”

The Bill includes changes to ensure all written judgments are published online, unless there is a good reason not to. It also places a requirement on the Judiciary to publish information on the numbers of outstanding judgments beyond a reasonable time and how a party can obtain information about a reserved judgment.

“New Zealanders are paying for this justice; they should be able to access it. The higher courts already publish decisions of interest but the biggest gap is in the district courts, where the bulk of cases are heard. We must work with the judiciary to close this gap and this new bill is a key part of that dialogue.

“People also have a right to know about judgments that remain outstanding beyond a reasonable time for delivery,” Ms Collins says.

The Bill removes the historic presumption that paper-based processes will be used in the courts and paves the way for electronic ways of working. It also strengthens the presumption for the use of audio visual links in court so that remand prisoners are more likely appear before a judge without all the upheaval of travelling to court.