Upper Hutt Leader
People summoned to appear before the courts may soon be able to opt for appearances by an online video feed.
Minister of Courts Chester Borrows said video appearances and "online judges" could be introduced by next July.
He said people would have the option of appearing on uncontested matters on a video feed which could free up hours of court time.
This follows a statement from the Corrections Department that prison inmates may soon be able to appear in court via an audio and video link.
But the move could have implications for the temporarily-closed Upper Hutt District Court.
Mr Borrows said yesterday that decisions about the future of the Upper Hutt court have not been made. A paper would be put before cabinet in the next four weeks before further consultation in September.
Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins said alternative solutions needed to be found if the Upper Hutt court does not reopen.
The Upper Hutt court was one of six closed in December following an assessment that determined the building was not earthquake-safe.
"We want to make sure we keep Family Court in Upper Hutt," Mr Hipkins said.
Upper Hutt's court was at the bottom of the priority list and if an Upper Hutt solution was not found the city could lose the court altogether.
A community hub could be set up and act as a family court, and a centre for others in the community including Justices of the Peace, and the Citizens Advice Bureau, he said.
Local lawyers say the youth and family court should stay in Upper Hutt, at the minimum.
Solicitor Reg Newell said having the court in Lower Hutt impacted on families who want to support their family member appearing in court.
"It creates hardship for people to travel down to Lower Hutt," he said. It could be expensive for families to travel to Lower Hutt.
He thinks keeping the Family Court and Youth Court should be a priority.
In December the Ministry of Justice said the court would be closed for nine to 12 months for earthquake strengthening.
- Upper Hutt Leader
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