by Jan Logie
Currently the Courts in Auckland are in a real mess, due to a completely bungled new system for processing Family Court cases.
The Law Society is saying that In some cases protection orders aren’t being served, cases are being delayed and case files are being sent to the wrong places. They are concerned that it will only be a matter of time before someone’s safety is compromised.
The new model was supposed to make the system more efficient, but lawyers say it is chaotic, with affidavits going missing, judges not being given complete files, delays of up to several months for hearing dates, sealed orders not being sent, and emails and voice messages going unanswered.
The Family court is a crucial site for women and children escaping violent relationships to seek protection and resolve issues. Unfortunately the processes and lack of analysis around family violence means it is often quite traumatic.
The Government initially promised to clear the backlog of cases by 30 June, and then to have the courts working normally by the end of July. Now they are saying they should have it sorted by the end of the year.
To allow this degree of breakdown to continue for so long is, I believe, another sign that the Government doesn’t understand the safety issues involved. Courts deputy secretary Robert Pigou said claims lives were being put at risk were “alarmist”. I do not agree. I think the Law Society’s fears are well founded.
So this has been going on for a while but in response to an outcry from the Law Society and senior Judges, covered on Radio New Zealand yesterday, the Minister has promised an urgent audit. Courts Minister Chester Burrows is expecting a briefing this week.
This kind of chaos around a change driven by efficiency does not reassure any of us when there are more significant changes proposed for the efficiency of the Family Court.
Access to justice is a fundamental right.