Jury trials are now suspended until the end of July amid uncertainty of when the Covid-19 alert level will change.

Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann announced the extension to the planned two-month pause in a statement.

"Given the need to summons jurors well in advance of the trial date, and the unavoidable
uncertainty about the alert status going forward, a decision has been taken to extend the
two-month suspension of jury trials until Friday 31 July 2020."

The Courts were working with the Ministry of Justice to enable judge-alone trials, and proceedings in which oral evidence is required, as soon as possible, resourcing the needed support and technology.

Advertisement

In the last week 36 courtrooms across the District and High Courts have been set up to conduct virtual hearings, with participants tuning in remotely.

"These are now being used to conduct priority proceedings," Winkelmann said.

"The Ministry of Justice is working to extend this facility to other courtrooms as quickly as possible."

So that cases which require oral evidence can be heard, the court was developing processes for taking evidence remotely in criminal and civil proceedings.

When New Zealand moved to Covid-19 alert level four at 11.59pm March 25, the Courts aimed to ensure essential services continue to be provided at alert level 4, Winkelmann said.

"It is essential that New Zealand courts 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," she said at the time.

The District Court would continue to hear, all bail applications, conduct case review hearings, take pleas, and sentence to the extent that the taking of oral evidence is not required during lockdown.

The Court will shortly resume dealing with pretrial applications, Winkelmann said.

Advertisement
There are 50 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand - the lowest daily total reported in a fortnight.

She said the High Court would also continue to hear all custodial remands, criminal appeals, pre-trial applications and sentences.

"Some sentencings of significant public interest may be adjourned so arrangements can be made to ensure that victims and the community are able to engage with those sentencings."

The High Court will be conducting as many non-witness civil hearings as can be supported, from April 20.

Remote technology will be used as appropriate, in an effort to lessen the risks to participants.

"This includes all work presently scheduled, other than civil trials, and liquidation or bankruptcy lists."

The Supreme Court, now supported by remote technology, will work with counsel as to how appeals scheduled in the future will be heard.

Hearings at the Court of Appeal recommenced on April 2, and the Court can now hear all criminal appeals, Winkelmann said.

The Māori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal, Employment Court and the Environment Court will continue to operate in accordance with their priority proceedings protocols.

All urgent and time-limited applications will be heard by the Family Court.

READ MORE:
Covid-19 coronavirus: Court to continue during lockdown if liberty, safety and wellbeing affected
Coronavirus: NZ Courts to stay open amid further Covid-19 restrictions
Covid 19 coronavirus: Chief Judge says some court cases mistakenly adjourned during lockdown
Covid-19 coronavirus: What court hearings will continue during New Zealand's pandemic lockdown?

In most cases this will be done remotely, but arrangements can be made for hearings in
person for unrepresented litigants for whom this is not possible, or otherwise in
circumstances where remote participation is inappropriate," Winkelmann said.

The Youth Court will continue to operate in accordance with its published protocol.

Registries will remain open for electronic or postal filing of all court documents.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website