District Court to open in Level 3 with extra safety precautions

By Jessica Tyson

The District Court is set to open tomorrow and is taking extra steps in relation to the safety of court participants and observance of COVID-19 Alert Level 3 restrictions.

The courts are an essential service during the pandemic response period and the Alert Level 3 Health Act order provides that essential personal movement includes leaving home to attend Court.

The Chief District Court Judge, Judge Heemi Taumaunu, says the District Court must continue to process cases, provided the work can be done in a way that complies with physical distancing and hygiene requirements.

He says there will be screening at entrances to carefully control and limit numbers, physical distancing and hygiene protocols, including extra cleaning, will be observed within courtrooms and court precincts and PPE will be available to anyone who asks for it. People may also use their own PPE if they choose.

To stagger the numbers, those on bail and due to attend court will be allocated times to appear, spread throughout the day. This should minimise any need for people to queue before they are screened and permitted to enter. 

“I expect this to be an orderly process, and people coming to court should be prepared to queue outside, at two metres apart from each other, Chief Judge Taumaunu says.

“Only those who are required in court should attend, and defendants are permitted to bring only one support person.”

Everyone will also have to provide details for a COVID-19 contact-tracing register. Proof of identification may be required.

“On Tuesday, the number of people attending court on bail is not expected to be large. We are expecting fewer than 70 people staggered throughout the day to attend in response to their bail conditions at Auckland District Court, and even fewer at Manukau – our two biggest courts.”

In addition, the District Court will continue to deal with people in custody but using audio-visual link (AVL) as much as possible. Judges will defer some cases if numbers attending turn out to be greater than anticipated.