Making New Zealand's court process easily understandable is the aim of a new video released by the Judicial Office for Senior Courts: Te Tari Kaiwhakawā mo ngā Kōti Mātāmua.

The video titled Our Courts explains the role of the courts and how they work together, the importance of judicial independence and the principles upon which the courts are based.

The nine-minute video can be watched in three languages - English, te reo Māori and Mandarin.

The video features Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann and several other prominent Judges.

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Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann is the head of the New Zealand judiciary, presiding over the Supreme Court. Photo / Supplied
Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann is the head of the New Zealand judiciary, presiding over the Supreme Court. Photo / Supplied

Three key principles on which courts are based are explained: the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and openness and transparency.

"How we treat a person charged with a crime is a reflection of the values we hold as a society," Justice Thomas says in Our Courts.

"Only if a fair process has been followed can the power of a state to punish a person be justified."

"That is why the starting point is a presumption of innocence. A person charged with a crime is considered innocent until proved guilty."

She also explained why every defendant in court has the right to a fair trial.

"It is only if these fair trial rights are recognised and protected that we can be sure a conviction is safe and that the state is justified in holding the person to account for what they are said to have done."

Courts strive to be as open and transparent as possible, the video says.

"Access to a courtroom or information about a case will only be limited if it's necessary to protect a victim, or to ensure a fair trial for the accused person."

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The New Zealand system of government is based on separation of powers between three equal branches of government: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

The New Zealand system of government is based on separation of powers. Photo / Supplied
The New Zealand system of government is based on separation of powers. Photo / Supplied

The executive, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, includes ministers and agencies that administer the laws, while the legislature, or Parliament, is where the laws are made.
The third arm, the judiciary, is the judges who make court decisions and uphold the laws.

The separation between the three is important, as it provides "checks and balances on how the Government exercises its power."

Neither Parliament, nor Government can influence a judge, who is completely independent.

Ann Pang narrates the Mandarin version of the video. Photo / Supplied
Ann Pang narrates the Mandarin version of the video. Photo / Supplied

"The independence of judges is very important in the big picture, a constitutional sense," says Justice Dobson.

"We must be fearless in monitoring whether the executive – the Government of the day – has gone beyond the powers given to it by Parliament, or has abused those powers.
If it has, the court will order that it put it right."

The tiered structure of the New Zealand court system is also explained in the video.

The court system is broken into four escalating courts: the District Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

There are four courts in New Zealand: the District Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Photo / Supplied
There are four courts in New Zealand: the District Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Photo / Supplied

The video was produced, in part, as a response to the lack of easily understood information about the courts as a separate and independent branch of Government, a spokesperson for the Judicial Office Communications Unit of the Judicial Office for Senior Courts said.

"It is also hoped the video will make the courts more accessible to, and better understood by, the increasingly diverse communities they serve," they said.

Our Courts will be screened in courthouses with public screens and can be viewed online on the Courts of New Zealand's website.