Court closures signal future change

Confirmation that the Government will close some district courts and downgrade others is hardly proof of National’s commitment to maintain access to justice for ordinary New Zealanders, says Labour’s Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel.

“We accept that services should always be kept up-to-date with changing technology and population patterns, but changes should not simply be a cost cutting exercise.

“This proposal will seriously impinge on access to justice in those regions where access is already difficult or limited. 

“Dargaville Court is a case in point.  According to answers to written questions that I have put to the Government, the reduction in services there is expected to save just $110,000 a year.  That is a small saving compared to the added inconvenience and damage that the decision will cause to the local community.

“Courts Minister Chester Borrows says that people will be able to use Skype instead of having to physically attend Court. That intimates that every New Zealander has access to the internet. They don’t.

“And not everyone using the courts has access to the necessary technology, nor the means necessary to travel longer distances to attend court.

“These are pre-determined changes that send a chilling signal about further potential widespread court closures in budget 2013, and we should all be very concerned about that.”