Balclutha court changes confirmed

NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 10:52 13/12/2012

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The Justice Ministry has confirmed Balclutha Court will used for hearings only from March next year.

The Balclutha courthouse has been closed since late last year because of the risk of collapse in a serious earthquake and all hearings have been heard at Gore, Dunedin or the Balclutha St John's Ambulance Centre.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows said yesterday crime was at a thirty-year low and the number of criminal summary cases had dropped 25 per cent since 2008/09.

The Government is taking the opportunity this provides to improve the administration of New Zealand's District Courts to bring them in line with public expectations of convenient and accessible services.''

The decision to proceed followed discussions between the Justice Ministry, Police, Corrections, lawyers and other stakeholders on how the changes would work best for communities, Mr Borrows said.

''We have a plan to modernise courts though greater use of technology, better processes and more efficient use of infrastructure. The key shift is to use courthouses for hearings and to deliver other services in more modern ways, such as via phone, internet or video-conference.''

The Justice Ministry website says, on average, Balclutha Court sat three days a month and case loads were decreasing as crime dropped across the Southern Police District.

The hearing-only courts will be Dargaville, Waihi, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Opotiki, Marton, Waipukurau, Oamaru and Balclutha.

Four courts will be disestablished. They are Feilding, Upper Hutt, Warkworth and Whataroa.

''These changes are possible due to the success this Government has had in reducing crime rates, and will help us deliver modern court services which are focused on delivering a just result to New Zealanders,'' Mr Borrows said.

The St John's Ambulance Centre has been and will continue to be used to hold civil and Family Court hearings.

All hearings being held in the Dunedin District Court or Gore District Court will continue, along with High Court hearings at Dunedin. Sometimes a judge may direct a Family Court hearing be held in Dunedin.

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- The Southland Times

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