6 Jul 2009

Video use suggested to help cut trial costs, backlog

6:35 pm on 6 July 2009

Greater use of video links in court is one of a raft of proposals being put up by Government in an overhaul of the justice system.

Eleven consultation papers have been released by the Ministry of Justice as part of the Criminal Procedure Simplification Project.

The proposals include raising the threshold for jury trials so they are reserved for more serious offences and making rules clearer for when cases can go ahead without the defendant being there.

Legislation is also being proposed to enable participants in trials to appear by audio visual link.

Justice Minister Simon Power says the changes would result in less delay, fewer adjournments and shorter trials.

Mr Power says it costs $131 per trip to transport a prisoner to and from court and it would make sense for the early stages of a hearing to be done via video conferencing.

He says video linkage is used in a wide range of countries, including Australia, although New South Wales and Victoria do not use the technology for sentencing.

Mr Power says New Zealand's Bill of Rights provides for the appearance of a defendant, but legislation can be changed. He hopes new legislation will be in place by the end of next year.

The Labour Party says it would support the greater use of video links in court proceedings.

Justice spokesperson Lianne Dalziel says other countries have done the same thing and shown there is room to open up court processes to the use of video links.

Ms Dalziel says anything that frees up court time and clears a backlog of cases is welcome.

Video link could save millions - union

A union for many prison officers says the Government's video link proposal could save the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars.

Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon says much of the staffing of courts is done by prison officers on overtime.

Mr Hanlon says greater use of video links would cut down on the use of prison staff and police officers in court. It would also save money on transporting prisoners to and from court.

Evidence was given from overseas, via video conference, in two recent high-profile court cases - the Nai Yin Xue murder trial and the David Bain re-trial.