New Zealand Courts will remain open but proceedings will be prioritised and the number of people allowed in the courthouse will be limited.
The Ministry of Justice has also ordered infrared scanners and people will soon have their temperatures checked when entering the courthouse. Those who appear to have a fever will be turned away as the courts do their bit in limiting the spread of Covid-19.
Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann has written to the legal profession advising them that it is her expectation that the courts will remain open whatever the alert level is because they provide an essential community service.
In the letter, Winkelmann said cases that affected the liberty of an individual, personal safety and those which are time-critical would be given priority.
In-person appearances by council, clients, witnesses and the public would also be limited and where possible, decisions would be made on paper and hearing would occur by telephone or audio-visually.
District courts were planning to make appointments for people appearing on the court list, limiting the number people at court and reducing in-person appearances in favour of phone or AVL.
There would also be enhanced cleaning measures in place and counsel, witnesses and parties who are unwell should not attend in person.
The courts were struggling to guarantee hand sanitiser would be on site, but soap and hand towels are available.
Infrared scanners have also been ordered to check temperatures and those whose temperatures had spiked would be denied entry.
Winkelmann said there would be disruption to normal schedules and processes as a number of people including court staff follow the public health guidance or become sick.
She urged people to be patient and said they were planning for more disruptions.
Winkelmann said in a statement the greatest impacts of Covid-19 would be felt on New Zealand's largest and busiest court, the District Court, which includes the Family Court, and the communities they serve.
All people who were scheduled to attend court next week should continue to do so unless they had been told otherwise by the registry of the relevant court or by their lawyer, or have been instructed to self-isolate or stay at home or were feeling unwell.
"Although the operating circumstances of the courts may change during Covid-19, the courts will continue to uphold the rule of law, and to ensure that fair trial rights, the right to natural justice and rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act are upheld."
Further information on how the courts are responding to Covid-19 can be found on the Courts of NZ website.
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