Editorial: Change will boost courtroom efficiency

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I spent time as a court reporter and was amazed at how many prisoners would be transported from remand prisons just so they could appear for a few minutes before a judge.

The court taker would call the names of these defendants and they would be fetched from the holding cells and brought into the dock before the judge. These were simple remand appearances where nothing of significance happened.

The police and lawyers would say what they needed to say and the judge would remand these prisoners to reappear at another date. They would then be escorted from the courtroom and taken back to prison.

These appearances are, of course, important.

They are important steps between someone being arrested and accused of a crime, to them being convicted or cleared.

But the cost of transporting and guarding them for such brief appearances does not make good financial or business sense.

In fact, it is cumbersome because they have to be driven to and from out of town.

But all that is about to change.

As we report on page 3 today, the Government has addressed the matter by rolling out technology that allows remand prisoners to appear before judges without leaving prison.

The changes mean these prisoners will interact with the courts using audio-visual links. They will be able to see the judge and part of the court on screen.

It will not be used for trials or defended hearings where it is important defendants are in court and physically part of the process.

The technology is expected to be operating in Tauranga by September next year.

The national cost is nearly $28 million but will be worth it in the long run.

It is being used in Hamilton and Auckland and has already been used 8000 times.

I expect the long-term savings will be huge and it will mean our courts can operate on a cheaper, more efficient basis.

The Crown and at least one top local lawyer have already welcomed it.

The Government deserves praise for cutting costs and making our courtrooms more efficient.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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