15 Nov 2018

Court strikes putting people in danger - lawyer

8:37 pm on 15 November 2018

A Christchurch defence lawyer whose client was rushed in a courtroom says industrial action by court staff is putting people in danger.

Coat of Arms

More than 2000 PSA members are working to rule and periodically walking off the job in a pay dispute with the Justice Ministry. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Daniel French was pleading guilty to firearms and cannabis charges at the Christchurch District Court today when three men jumped over the lawyers' bench and tried to attack him.

His lawyer Liz Bulger said one of the men got on top of the glass partition in the dock, while the others were stopped before they got there.

The men appeared to have a beef with French over the death of a gang mate.

Ms Bulger said it became apparent there could be trouble at today's appearance, but she wasn't able to request an appearance via an audio-visual link because of the industrial action being taken by court staff who are members of the PSA union.

She said that action put people in danger.

"People were in danger, there were people who were in the back of the court, completely unrelated to my client's appearance. There was a big police presence, there's no doubt about that, because tensions have been running high in relation to this matter, but certainly this morning was the worst example of behaviour like that in the court in 31 years' of practice."

More than 2000 Public Service Association members are working to rule and periodically walking off the job in a pay dispute with the Justice Ministry.

In a statement, Ministry of Justice chief operating officer Carl Crafar said the ministry was concerned about the safety, security and well-being of all court users and participants throughout courthouses because of the industrial action.

"We always ensure that plans are in place to manage risks," he said.

"While the ministry does not generally publicly discuss the details of its security arrangements, I can confirm that in this case there were three court security officers in the courtroom and a heightened Police presence given the assessed risks associated with the appearance."

PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay said the strike action was not taken lightly by staff.

"The PSA agrees that the industrial stalemate between the Ministry of Justice and PSA is taking a toll and needs to reach a resolution," Mr Barclay said.

"Our hope was that this would have been resolved much sooner and we agree with today's statement from the NZ Law Society that the parties need to resolve the dispute."

He said they were hopeful that serious bargaining with the ministry would restart soon.