Court opens doors to public
‘‘We want people to come here and not see the court as something different, or as an official building, but as a crucial part in creating a safer community,’’ Porirua judge John Walker said at the district court’s recent open day.
On November 27, the public had the opportunity to get a closer look at the justice system and its work with the community.
The district court’s corridors were abuzz with curious children, parents and agency representatives as they filed in to watch mock proceedings in the youth, family and criminal court.
Spectators jumped at the chance to ask questions about procedures and courtroom jargon following mock trials.
Judge Walker, who has regularly served at Porirua District Court since 2003, said the open day was a ‘‘ very important initiative’’. It was a follow-up to a workshop held in February which brought together local community organisations, social workers, police, lawyers, health workers, teachers, council and court staff to try to identify and do something about the underlying causes of crime in Porirua.
‘‘The common theme seemed to be so that people wanted to better understand how the court works and [an open day] would give the court the opportunity to showcase all the services that are available,’’ Judge Walker said.
About 30 stalls were set up to educate people on the large network of organisations connected with the court.
‘‘We have a much bigger tool box out here [compared to anywhere else] simply because of the wide range of services we have available in Porirua to help better respond to the offending in this community,’’ he said.
He hopes in future the local community will play a more active role in the justice system.
‘‘We envisage increased community involvement will lead to justice becoming more relevant to the community and will result in greater accountability on offenders to change their behaviour.’’
Hot seat: Family court judge Jan Kelly stops during a mock hearing, to explain to the public how the court intervenes to resolve tricky disputes.
Busted: An actor, playing a violent domestic offender, gets sentenced in a mock proceeding at Porirua District Court.