COURT

Ministers praise Christchurch court staff

Monday 5 September 2011, 5:35PM
By Simon Power
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CHRISTCHURCH

Justice Minister Simon Power and Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson today visited the Nga Hau e Wha Marae in Bromley, which is being used as a temporary courthouse following the Canterbury earthquakes.

The marae has been hearing both criminal and family matters since April, and is one of several interim court facilities operating while the main court buildings are unable to be reoccupied.

“Though the main court buildings on Durham Street are now out of the cordon they cannot be reoccupied until completion of a geotechnical survey, structural integrity certification, and appropriate remedial work,” Mr Power said.

“Despite the second busiest court precinct in the country being out of action, court caseloads have been able to be maintained at relatively stable levels, although pressure is building in some areas, including jury trials.”

Mr Finlayson said ensuring the administration of justice continued after February’s earthquake would not have been possible without the help of Canterbury court staff.

“Keeping the wheels of justice moving in Christchurch is a testament to the passion and resilience of court staff and the unprecedented level of collaboration between Justice, Police, and Corrections.

“I acknowledge that working from interim court facilities, including the marae, has been challenging, but it’s also had some positive benefits, including resulting in courts operating on a multi-jurisdictional basis.

“There’s also been anecdotal evidence that some defendants have been behaving with more respect and dignity at the marae than they would at a courthouse.”

The Ministers say challenges remain around delivering jury trials which have been held out of Christchurch since April. The Ministry of Justice is working with the judiciary on contingency options for jury trials should the buildings still be inaccessible at the end of the year.