Lawyer takes issue with judge

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 12:58 27/05/2014

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Lawyers should not be fined for failing to meet the new criminal procedural legislation expectations, a Nelson criminal lawyer says.

Nelson defence lawyer Steven Zindel says it is too simplistic to point solely to lawyers for holding up the court process.

He was responding to comments made by chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue in a speech at the Auckland Legalwise conference this month on the year-old Criminal Procedure Act.

The act was intended to modernise the court system and speed up the justice process.

The judge said in her speech that unless practitioners and judges were willing to change their behaviour then the new legislation would not streamline the court process.

"To put it bluntly: if we do not all change soon, then we will never change, and the system will not work as it was designed to."

Unless lawyers met the requirements of the act, judges should start using their new power to order costs against a party for procedural failures, she said.

She pointed to reports of defence counsel failing to organise meetings, to turn up, engage or participate in the procedural process.

However, Zindel said the judge was wrong to point only to lawyers for procedural failures.

All sides were responsible for resolving issues with the system. Police could equally hold up the process and yet the judge was not holding them accountable.

There could be a number of reasons why appointments, for example, did not happen.

In fact, in some circumstances delays could be a good thing, he said.

In criminal situations having time to allow the dust to settle could mean a client could seek rehabilitation services, for example, he said.

The real problem was waiting for trials to take place.

Even if the first three or four weeks of a case could be sped up, people would still have to wait periods of 12 months, for example, for their actual trial to start.

Zindel quoted another lawyer's comparison to Wellington airport saying it was all well and good to try to make the check-in more efficient in Wellington airport but this was not going to change the fact there was still only a certain number of flights going to Auckland.

"The system is quite burdensome and the job can be quite taxing."

He questioned how future lawyers could be attracted to the sector with the rising criticism, constraints and pressure. Increased demands meant fewer people would want to to do the work.

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- Nelson

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