Apology for court roll-out issues

Justice secretary Andrew Bridgman has apologised for problems in the roll-out of a centralised court system in Auckland.

The programme was dogged by controversy, with lawyers and judges complaining it caused backlogs and delays in cases involving at-risk children and domestic violence.

The model, introduced in February, meant that civil, family court and other specialised services across the region were managed from operational hubs at the Auckland and Manukau district courts.

But when former Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier expressed concerns Justice Minister Judith Collins said "the model is fundamentally flawed".

Bridgman, who was addressing the justice and electoral select committee this morning, said it was the justice ministry's "biggest challenge of the year".

"It was an initiative done for the right reasons, but the bottom line is the implementation was problematic...Staff were not fully prepared for the changes and we did not engage with the legal profession early enough or actively enough, and I've got to take a mea culpa on that."

He admitted the ministry under-estimated the volume of cases.

A senior team has been installed to sort out the problems with an advisory committee of representatives from the legal profession.

Bridgman said "extra resources" have also gone into managing the caseload.

"So the result of this has been...they are now back to business as usual."

Bridgman also outlined how the ministry was striving to implement a "people-centred" court system including more online services and increased use of audio-visual links to court rooms.

Bridgman said officials may even consider Skype links for judge and counsel hearings.

Auckland Now