Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party
The Ministry of Justice’s sudden closure of six of its district courthouses because of earthquake risk has come at the worst possible time and will cause unnecessary pressure and hardship for thousands of people, Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Charles …Charles
1 December 2011 MEDIA STATEMENT
Court closures couldn’t come at worse time
The Ministry of Justice’s sudden closure of six of its district courthouses because of earthquake risk has come at the worst possible time and will cause unnecessary pressure and hardship for thousands of people, Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Charles Chauvel says.
Court buildings in Balclutha, Oamaru, Rangiora, Upper Hutt, Masterton, and Fielding have been closed from today, with Dunedin courthouse expected to be next.
“Everyone understands that earthquake risk needs to be taken seriously, and if assessments show that some of our courthouses are not up to scratch, then we need to remedy the problem.
“But the solution is not to shut 20 per cent of New Zealand’s court capacity overnight as we approach the busiest time of the judicial calendar,” Charles Chauvel said.
“The speedy administration of justice, already a shaky proposition at the best of times, will be prejudiced. Trials may fall over. Victims of crime may be forced to wait longer for their cases to be heard and thousands of people will be forced to travel elsewhere for relocated hearings.
“These buildings must have been considered safe last week, and the week before. The acting deputy secretary of courts says there is ‘no imminent danger’. Instead of this knee-jerk reaction, a proper risk assessment should apply.
“The courtrooms in these courthouses will be scheduled for skeleton sittings over those three or four weeks. The likelihood of a major quake in most of the affected locations between now and Christmas is low.
“Either the courts should reopen immediately and priority remedial work scheduled over the December/January period, or temporary courts need to be opened in risk locations, now.
“John Key needs to appoint someone at ministerial level to take charge at the Ministry of Justice. Clearly, no-one is thinking right now of the interests of a New Zealanders in the justice system,” Charles Chauvel said.