Now that the country has moved to Alert Level 2 for COVID-19, the New Zealand courts are not far behind. Courts are continuing to operate under Alert Level 3 until Monday 18 May 2020. Measures are in place to ensure that proceedings are conducted safely. Physical distancing and cleaning regimes continue to play important roles.
At Alert Level 2, and subject to the restrictions noted below, the High Court will carry out all its usual scheduled work both from the home and circuit registries that can be safely supported. This requires the co-operation of all parties to ensure the courts function to the fullest extent they safely can in performance of their role. The restrictions are:
- Criminal jury trials will not be held before 3 August;
- Substantive civil fixtures involving witnesses with a hearing date prior to 25 May will not be required to proceed; and
- If people are required, or proposing, to attend a hearing and are at higher risk of severe illness, immunocompromised or with a relevant underlying health condition, they should not attend Court. If this applies, the presiding judge should be advised so that alternative arrangements for the appearance can be made.
The District Court will continue to conduct priority proceedings in the Criminal, Family, Youth, and Civil jurisdictions as it has done throughout Alert Levels 3 and 4. At Alert Level 2, the Court will aim to undertake as much additional work as possible within the significant constraints imposed by COVID- 19.
The Court will aim to hear as much scheduled criminal work in Alert Level 2 as possible, subject to workforce capacity levels, courtroom availability and the requirement to observe physical distancing.
At Alert Level 2 the Family Court remains an essential service. Under Alert Level 2, the Court will continue to undertake priority work, but also intends to undertake all previously scheduled work. A triage process has been operating in a number of courts to identify and progress priority cases and this will continue to be utilised.