‘Crusher’ is lean­ing on the judges

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ju­dith ‘‘Crusher’’ Collins is putting heat un­der tardy judges who are tak­ing too long to fin­ish their home­work – re­leas­ing judg­ments on cases they have heard.

She’s right. You only need to glance at court news to know that.

It’s not weeks of wait­ing – in some cases it’s months . . . Over re­cent years that old adage ‘‘Jus­tice de­layed is jus­tice de­nied’’ seems to have be­come a way of life in the law in­dus­try.

Her ‘‘please ex­plain’’ is part of a ma­jor over­haul on how the court sys­tems work – and don’t work.

In­cluded are the High Court, the Em­ploy­ment, En­vi­ron­ment, Maori Land Courts, the dis­trict courts, Court of Ap­peal and the Supreme Court.

She wants all of them to come up with a time sched­ule of what they think would be a rea­son­able time lag be­tween hear­ings and re­lease of a judg­ment.

She has con­vinced Cab­i­net col­leagues that the topic needs a strong arm ap­proach.

New law will force chief judges to set pro­to­cols on time taken to get a ver­dict, be pre­pared to give a run­ning re­port on progress – ‘‘ a headsup’’ in a cliche of the mo­ment.

Hav­ing promised that no judges will nec­es­sar­ily be named and/or shamed, she did trot out one name – the Em­ploy­ment Court Chief Judge Graeme Col­gan. One of his case judg­ments took two years from hear­ing to judg­ment and two oth­ers took 20 months.

By any­one’s judg­ment, that’s ridicu­lous.

Judge Ju­dith should also run a rule over the na­tion’s coro­ners. Time lags in their courts of­ten run into many months – even years.

The no­to­ri­ous Kahui case set an un­wanted record.

The twins were killed in 2006. It took the police years to mount a case against their fa­ther. And it took 10 min­utes for the jury to pro­duce a ver­dict of ‘‘not guilty’’.

It took six years af­ter their deaths for the is­sue to move to the Coro­ners’ Court where the coroner took months to re­port – mov­ing out­side his ju­di­cial rules of ap­point­ment in an un­wise judg­ment which clearly blamed the twins’ fa­ther for their death.

I pointed out that the coroner’s judg­ment at the time – ap­par­ently toned down from a first draft – breached the act which spec­i­fies that coro­ners shouldn’t raise the is­sue of guilt. But no ac­tion was taken.

Coro­ners’ cases take more than 400 days to com­plete on av­er­age and more than 700 days if coro­ners have to wait for other in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be com­pleted.

‘‘I have seen first-hand how the coro­nial process can af­fect fam­i­lies al­ready griev­ing over the un­ex­pected death of a fam­ily mem­ber,’’ min­is­ter Ch­ester Bor­rows said an­nounc­ing likely changes. ‘‘Im­prov­ing the process will make a real dif­fer­ence for th­ese fam­i­lies and help them move for­ward with their lives.’’

He should also take this op­por­tu­nity to get through to coro­ners what they should and should not do and say, quot­ing the dam­ag­ing Kahui hear­ing as be­ing con­trary to the law. (Memo Ch­ester: Check sec­tion 57 of the Coro­ners’ Act, ‘‘not to de­ter­mine civil, crim­i­nal, or dis­ci­plinary li­a­bil­ity’’.)

But the snail-pace move­ment isn’t lim­ited to the courts.

A re­port on a near miss on rail lines tells how a train was stopped when a com­puter reading showed it just short of the en­trance to a tun­nel with a small rail main­te­nance ve­hi­cle ap­proach­ing on the same stretch of sin­gle track.

The as­sess­ment of what needed do­ing to avoid a dan­ger­ous even fa­tal in­ci­dent was re­leased last week – three years af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan.

Avi­a­tion ex­perts barely get off the ground – even out of the hangar – tak­ing months over their ‘‘oc­cur­rences.’’

Ex­am­ples: Lat­est: An Air New Zealand flight to Canada with 379 pas­sen­gers plus cock­pit and cabin staff was later found to be car­ry­ing a dan­ger­ous chem­i­cal can­is­ter for the RNZAF – ‘‘se­ri­ously en­dan­ger­ing’’ ev­ery­one on board.

The date: 2009. The in­ci­dent re­ports: A Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity in­terim find­ing in 2012 and its ‘‘fi­nal fac­tual’’ re­port re­leased last week!

A Fletcher plane, dan­ger­ously mod­i­fied from an agri­cul­tural air­craft into a para­chute-drop car­rier three months be­fore, crashed dur­ing take­off from Fox Glacier, killing all nine aboard.

The date: Septem­ber 4, 2010. Crash re­port: May 9, 2012.

An Air New Zealand 747 was on its ap­proach to land at San Fran­cisco when the crew of another air­craft warned that flames were com­ing from its num­ber four en­gine.

The fire was not de­tected on the New Zealand flight deck. The jet landed safely.

The date: May 2011. re­port: Septem­ber 5, 2013.

A mid-air col­li­sion of two Cess­nas killed a young flight in­struc­tor and her stu­dent over Feild­ing Air­port.

Date: July 26, 2010. Crash re­port: March 23, 2013.

A Piper Navajo Chief­tain landed at Nel­son with its nose wheel jammed and half ex­tended.

The air­craft, with two pi­lots aboard and no pas­sen­gers, was ‘‘sub­stan­tially dam­aged’’.

Date: May 11, 2011. Crash re­port: Septem­ber 5, 2013.

Talk about slow mov­ing. If you have the time, take a look at those too, Ju­dith. In the mail­bag: ‘‘Mr Brown is very for­tu­nate that his chil­dren are stand­ing by him but their ap­peal (which I’m sur­prised he al­lowed to be pub­lished) to ig­nore his in­fi­delity and let him get on with be­ing mayor misses the point.

‘‘Like many oth­ers, I’m not con-

Crash cerned with the shab­bi­ness of his per­sonal life but the ques­tion of his in­tegrity does bother me.

‘‘As Dick Quax re­minded us, this is not the first time he’s been caught out – the other time in­volved a coun­cil credit card.

‘‘How can he talk to the youth of the city or any groups where he is sup­posed to be rep­re­sent­ing us, the cit­i­zens of Auck­land, with ev­ery­one know­ing he’s been dis­hon­est – not just with his fam­ily but to the vot­ers who sup­ported him?

‘‘How many of them would have voted for him if they had known about – not a love af­fair – but a tawdry sex­ual li­ai­son?

‘‘I don’t feel happy know­ing that a man I don’t trust and one who seems lack­ing in in­tegrity, should be run­ning my city and have such a say over my life.

‘‘I sim­ply don’t trust his judg­ment.

‘‘I thought it was bad enough, woo­ing his vot­ers in South Auck­land with a $20 mil­lion ex­trav­a­ganza called a white wa­ter raft­ing cen­tre – but how many of those vot­ers would have voted for him if they had known what they know this week?

‘‘I don’t feel good about the tack­i­ness of all this – it means that the mayor’s of­fice can­not be re­spected – it’s be­come dis­rep­utable in­stead.’’ – Name pro­vided

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