Dealing with the criminal courts as NZ comes to the end of the Covert 19 lockdown – Part 1

With NZ well into level 2 of the Covid19 Lockdown and on the way to level 1 life is quickly going back to the “new” normal.  With most business and services in the process of firstly trying to ramp up activity to pre lockdown levels, and secondly trying to make up for lost time and dealing and finally with trying to work their way through whatever backlogs they have, the criminal courts are pretty much doing the same.

So although the courts had continued to operate through all levels of the lockdown, albeit at a much reduced capacity, initially dealing only with urgent custody matters, and had already been pretty much back to normal for a few weeks now, a large volume of cases and proceedings had simply been delayed through various administrative and other adjournments.

The result is that the courts, which generally operate under some sort of a backlog anyway, are now operating at almost full steam playing catch up.

What that means is simply this:  if you have a court appearance the court is likely going to be busy.  There will likely be a queue.  If you get there late you will be further down in the queue.  That means waiting longer to appear, and that means waiting longer for your paperwork if there is any.

It means if you are late and miss your name being called and get a warrant issued you will have to wait so much longer to get it recalled at the end of the day, and then may simply be given another day to come back and wait again.

So, particularly for people who don’t appear in court often, but also even for those who do, it is probably helpful and worth having a very basic understanding about how you know to go to court, what time you should be there, what you should do when you get there, what happens on your first appearance, the role of the duty lawyer, when you should get your own lawyer, how legal aid work and when you might be entitled to it, understanding the different court sessions, how to get matters called so you don’t wait all day, and generally what to expect.

It is important to understand that there are some small differences between courts, and this will particularly be the case with small rural courts where they may not have regular sittings so the process will be adapted to that.

Given the large number of cases affected by re-scheduling during the lockdown period, it is worth dealing with that.

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