Judith Collins Public access to court documents could soon be a click away after Justice Minister Judith Collins confirmed plans to place all judgments online.
Under the current system, people often have to apply in writing to the courts to obtain access to information about someone's court appearance.
Court of Appeal and nearly all Supreme Court and High Court decisions since 2005 have been published online, but while district court judgments are taped, they are not always transcribed.
Ms Collins said the proposal was part of the Government's commitment to modernising the courts.
"This is about accessible, open and transparent justice. New Zealanders are paying for this justice They should be able to access it," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.
Ms Collins said the change was likely to be implemented in two stages - the first required pulling together all the available decisions online into one single easy-to-access webpage.
The second phase would involve consulting the Chief District Court judge, Jan-Marie Doogue, on complex issues before the changes came into effect.
Ms Collins said she expected the change to be in place next year.
Tauranga criminal defence lawyer Paul Mabey QC said the proposed change was a good move because the judgments were public documents and the public should have access to them.
He said greater access to the full judgments could only lead to better understanding of the court process and how a judge reached their conclusion.
"That's got to be a good thing."
Defence lawyer Rachel Adams said the proposal was a principled and "admirable move".
There would always be debate about judge's decisions sometimes due to a lack of understanding after reading about the case in a newspaper or online report, she said.
"Hopefully having access to the full judgment, the public will have a far better understanding about why a judge reached the particular decision they did, particularly what laws and other factors they had to take into account.
"That's got to be far better than reading a condensed version on a blog site."
Ms Adams said the change would hopefully lead to greater respect by the public for the judicial process, and ultimately improve the court's reputation and standing in the community.
Ken Evans, spokesman for Tauranga branch of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, also applauded the move.
"It's got to be good for the judges, the courts and the community," he said.
Labour's justice spokesman, Andrew Little, said he had some concerns, particularly in relation to young people who appeared in court in their teens or early 20s for petty crime or minor misdemeanour, only to have the matter come back to haunt them in their 30s or 40s.
"It's fair enough for a convicted murderer whose sentence is life imprisonment but, at some point, people involved in petty crimes or less serious offences should be given the chance to redeem themselves, and put the matter behind them," he said.