8 Jun 2019

More district court judges to be appointed to deal with backlog

9:49 am on 8 June 2019

Justice Minister Andrew Little says people are waiting too long for their court cases to be heard, but it's hoped a $54 million cash injection into courts will get the wheels of justice spinning faster.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Parliament has passed legislation under urgency raising the cap on the number of full-time district court judges from 160 to 182.

The District Court deals with more than 200,000 cases each year.

Mr Little said a growing number of cases there, coupled with more complex cases in the family court, had created a backlog.

He said they had increased the cap beyond what there was funding for, so that in the future the number could go up again without having to go back to Parliament.

"We've concluded the review of the family court, that will be released in about 10 days' time.

"In August we have the second and final report from the Safe and Effective Criminal Justice Advisory Group, on their recommendation I'm expecting that a consequence of both of those reports is that we will need additional judges."

Criminal Bar Association president Len Anderson said everybody was aware of the delays, particularly in the Family Court, which arose from changes under the National government.

"Which was designed to free up the Family Court but in fact, to some extent, transferred a lot of the burden to the judges because of unrepresented parties.

"There are certainly delays in the criminal court and it hasn't been helped by the strike last year, because what tended to happen was that cases got put off because of the strike.

"I don't think that backlog has really entirely been coped with yet."

Mr Little expected the extra judges to be appointed within the next three to six months.

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