30 Jun 2014

Courts stymied by shelving of e-bench

9:40 pm on 30 June 2014

The shelving of plans to create a paperless court has resulted in half a court system, the Criminal Bar Association says.

The $18 million e-bench project was the Government's digitisation of the court system project, aimed at saving time and money.

But it was put on hold when the Ministry of Justice found the software was not up to scratch.

The Criminal Procedure Act, designed to streamline cases going through court, was passed but it was supposed to work hand-in-hand with a paperless court system.

Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier said some lawyers were struggling.

"Many courts around the country, lawyers can't access their internet," he said.

"For example, in the Auckland District Court I often - probably 20 times a day - have to get up, get out of court, go off to an outside window to pick up internet so I can perhaps download some statute or some case law."

Courts Minister Chester Borrows said it inherited the e-bench project from the previous Government, and it planned to do something better.

"If we'd carried on and finished that project, the first thing that lawyers and the others in the sector would have quite justifiably said was 'is this it'?"

The ministry would avoid a possible Novopay situation by not rushing the change, Mr Borrows said.