19 Mar 2009

Extended hours to be trialled at Auckland courts

7:46 pm on 19 March 2009

District courts in Auckland will extend their opening hours during a pilot programme aimed at speeding up the legal process.

The Ministry of Justice and other agencies are running the trial during June.

The ministry says details, including the hours of operation, have yet to be finalised but allow for more flexibility at district courts and tribunals.

Auckland Law District Society president Anna Fitzgibbon says the backlog of criminal jury cases means defendants have to wait for a long time.

She says extended hours would be a good thing, but would need be well organised to avoid confusion.

However, criminal lawyer Barry Hart says the pilot programme is a token gesture, as there is a huge backlog of trials with some defendants having to wait more than a year.

Mr Hart says the justice system is too inefficient and cannot be fixed by just extending court hours.

He says the criminal courts are cluttered with minor crimes that do not need to result in prosecution.