2 Apr 2020

Defendants in custody will still appear in court for scheduled hearings in Covid-19 lockdown

6:59 am on 2 April 2020

Defendants being held in custody will appear before a judge for scheduled court hearings despite the lockdown.

Auckland High Court, District Court, High Court, Crest, Coat of Arms, court, courts

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Some courts are deemed an essential service and are continuing to operate at a limited level using remote technology during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu said the district court, the country's busiest jurisdiction, continued to deal with priority proceedings using audio-visual appearances whenever possible.

Priority proceedings relate to liberty of the individual, protection of vulnerable children, national and community safety and promoting public order.

Judge Taumaunu said from now on no witnesses for judge-alone trials or pre-trial applications would be required to physically go to court to give evidence.

Applications made under the Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015 would also be treated as priority proceedings.

Last week, the courts announced supporters would be turned away from courthouses unless they had successfully sought prior permission to attend a hearing from the presiding judge.

Lawyers and accredited news media continue to attend to court business and are permitted to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves and face masks.

Judge Taumaunu said in all priority proceedings lawyers would dial in remotely if possible, and a number of courtrooms now had a Virtual Meeting Room facility for court participants to take part in priority cases from home or offices.

Family Court, District Court, Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court hearings will all be conducted remotely if possible.

Judge Taumaunu said while the use of audio-visual links was generally inappropriate when dealing with young people in the Youth Court, it was in their best interests to use remote technology in the pandemic.

He said all young people arrested and taken into custody would be brought to court if audio-visual facilities were not available in police cells.

All other cases will be adjourned on the papers for one month from the current hearing date without appearance, he said.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs