Criminal court set to open in Christchurch

10:16 pm on 25 March 2011

The Justice Ministry says it hopes to have a criminal court operating in earthquake-hit central Christchurch in a matter of weeks.

The President of the Law Society in Canterbury, Allister Davis, says says thousands of cases have backed up since the quake and about 30 trials have been missed.

The criminal court will be run from the Maori Land Court in Peterborough Street when the cordon in that area is lifted on 10 April.

The ministry says while there is no structural damage to the District and High Court building on Durham Street it needs to ensure that all utility services are connected.

Several jury trials have been transferred to Timaru and Wellington.

Remand hearings are being dealt with at Christchurch Men's Prison and other criminal matters are being heard at Rangiora Courthouse.

Deputy Secretary of Courts Andrew Hampton says getting hold of case files is one of the key challenges, as many are locked in offices in the red zone, the area in the central city most badly damaged.

Riccarton Racecourse is being used for family, civil, tenancy and environment court hearings.