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Court Audio Visual Links Government Funding

(PR.co.nz) The Government has made available $2 million during the 2010/11 year for the rollout of audio visual links for court proceedings.

The announcement comes after the Justice and Electoral Select Committee reported back to Parliament on a bill which enables greater use of audio-visual link (AVL) technology in court proceedings.

Justice Minister Simon Power said the Courts (Remote Participation) Bill will improve court efficiency, increase safety, security, and access to justice, and improve the quality of evidence heard in courtrooms.

“While this bill is about speed and efficiency, it contains adequate safeguards to protect defendants’ rights to a fair trial and their ability to effectively participate in the justice process,” he said.

“Initially, the use of audio visual links is likely to be focused on procedural matters.

“Under the bill, judges will have to consider a range of general criteria before they can allow audio visual links to be used.

“Those criteria include the nature of the proceedings, the impact of AVL on the credibility of witnesses, the reliability of evidence, and the level of contact with other participants.

“For substantive criminal proceedings, the judge must specifically consider criteria designed to protect fair trial rights of defendants, including the ability of the defendant to:

* Comprehend the proceedings.

* Participate effectively in the conduct of their defence.

* Consult and instruct their counsel privately.

* Access relevant evidence.

* Examine witnesses for the prosecution.

“The judge must also consider the level of contact the defendant requires with other participants.”

Courts Minister Georgina te Heuheu said it was anticipated that by 2013/14 some of the busiest courts will each see up to 2,000 remand prisoner appear via audio visual link each year.

“The use of AVL will modernise and simplify the criminal court process.

“This means there will be fewer delays and changes to court timetabling.”

A joint venture between the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Corrections is also under way to develop and test AVL in district court appearances where it has not previously been used.

The testing will take place between Courtroom 2 of the Auckland District Court and the Auckland Central Remand Prison from August.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins believes there will be considerable benefits for remand prisoner transport.

“The requirement to transport remand prisoners to court can be disruptive, costly, and presents an increased risk to Corrections staff,” she said.

“The use of AVL will cut down on time and cost and improve safety for everyone involved.

“By keeping prisoners within the confines of prisons, AVL also reduces the opportunity for them to smuggle in contraband such as drugs or weapons.”

Media Release 3 June 2010 from Hon Simon Power, Minister of Justice, Hon Judith Collins, Minister of Corrections, and Hon Georgina te Heuheu, Minister of Courts.

 



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