31 Oct 2016

New Chch community magistrates to speed court process

8:26 pm on 31 October 2016

Christchurch is the latest district court to add community magistrates to its judicial ranks in an effort to reduce court waiting times.

Christchurch District Court

Christchurch District Court Photo: Google Maps

From today, three community magistrates from Auckland will sit at the courts for three days a week, as part of a pilot project.

Community magistrates are part-time judicial officers who work mostly in busy district courts.

They deal with category-2 offences, where the maximum penalty was three months in jail or a fine of up to $40,000.

This also included sentencings, opposed bail applications and, most importantly, it freed up judges to deal with more serious matters.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Jacquelyn Shannon said it estimated 14 percent of criminal appearances in front of a judge could be seen by a community magistrate.

Sixteen community magistrates already work at 10 centres in the North Island, but this is the first time they have sat in the South Island.

Southern region executive judge Paul Kellar said community magistrates were being introduced to try to reduce the waiting times at Christchurch's district court, which was not desirable for complainants, witnesses or defendants.

"A key aim in the introduction of community magistrates to the Christchurch District Court is to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their cases to be heard," he said.

If the two-month pilot succeeds, the Auckland magistrates will eventually be replaced with people drawn from the local community.

Justices of the Peace will continue to undertake list and fixture courts for minor offences, as they do now.

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