De­lays at Judges’ se­cu­rity wor­ries

Franklin County News - - FRONT PAGE - TOMMY LIV­INGSTON

Con­cerned judges have been ad­journ­ing or va­cat­ing court hear­ings in South Auck­land due to a lack of se­cu­rity staff in­side court rooms.

Lawyers work­ing in both the crim­i­nal and fam­ily courts in South Auck­land told court hear­ings were in­creas­ingly be­ing ad­journed by judges due to the lack of se­cu­rity staff.

One crim­i­nal lawyer said it had been hap­pen­ing on a ‘daily ba­sis’ at Manukau District Court, but had im­proved in re­cent weeks.

Be­sides Manukau, it is un­der­stood the other courts af­fected were Pa­pakura and Pukekohe District Courts.

Fam­ily Court lawyer Kirsty Swadling said the is­sue was caus­ing de­lays and un­needed stress on those caught up in the court pro­cesss.

Of­ten the hear­ings were be­ing called off at the last minute, Swadling said.

‘‘This it­self gives rise to a height­ened risk of vi­o­lence in cir­cum­stances where there are not enough se­cu­rity guards present.’’

Lawyer Al­lan Cooke said just this week he had been in a hear­ing where there were no se­cu­rity of­fi­cers present, but the judge had de­cided to pro­ceed any­way.

How­ever, this year he had about four cases which had been ad­journed due to there be­ing no guards.

‘‘It is a fun­da­men­tal is­sue. It is not un­known for judges to be the sub­ject of abuse and vi­o­lence.’’

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said she was ‘‘aware’’ of lawyers’ con­cerns about se­cu­rity in the courts.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for the guards was a re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Min­istry of Jus­tice, Judge Doogue said.

Min­istry of Jus­tice’s gen­eral man­ager for health safety and se­cu­rity Melissa Gill apol­o­gised for de­lays, which she said were due ot a num­ber of fac­tors in­clud­ing un­avail­abil­ity of court se­cu­rity re­sources that have been de­ployed else­where within the court­house.

Chief District Court judge Jan-Marie Doogue said she had been made aware of the se­cu­rity con­cerns.

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