Past Alert Levels
Please refer to:
District Court Protocol under COVID-19 Past Alert Level 4, 25 August 2021
District Court Protocol under COVID-19 Past Alert Level 1, at 30 June 2021
District Court Protocol under COVID-19 Past Alert Level 2, at 27 June 2021
District Court Protocol under COVID-19 Past Alert Level 3 reinstated 28 February 2021
Protocol during Past Alert Level 1 (10 June 2020)
Protocol during Past Alert Level 3 (23 April 2020)
Protocol during Past Alert Level 4 (16 April 2020)
Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu
current as at 25 August 2021
Nothing in this document is intended to reduce fair trial rights, the right to natural justice, or rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
This protocol recognises that there are likely to be regional variations and that local solutions will be necessary to best address local issues. Any such variations or solutions must be approved by the Chief District Court Judge.
The District Court Alert Level 4 protocol (this document) applies to any and all locations that are subject to Alert Level 4).
In this document “AVL” means any platform which allows for audio and visual remote participation. Without limitation, this includes VMR, MS Teams and any other electronic platform approved by the presiding Judge.
In this document, “vulnerable” means a person at higher risk of severe illness, immune-compromised or with a relevant underlying health condition.
This protocol will be reviewed and modified to the extent considered necessary by the Chief District Court Judge.
1. This protocol outlines how the District Court will operate at Alert Level 4. During Alert Level 4 the District Court will continue to provide an essential service subject to workforce capacity levels and the requirement to observe requisite physical distancing and heightened hygiene practices including that masks are to be worn at all times within the courthouse, unless permission is given by a judge.
2. The District Court will conduct priority proceedings at Alert Level 4. To the extent practicable all priority proceedings at Alert Level 4 will be conducted remotely in the Criminal, Family, Youth, and Civil jurisdictions of the District Court.
3. If facilities for the defendant to appear by AVL are not available, the defendant will appear in person.
4. All counsel and other stakeholders are permitted and expected to appear by AVL or telephone if such facilities are available and to the extent that it is practicable to do so. If such facilities are not available or are not practicable, counsel are expected to appear in person (this includes Duty Solicitors in the District Court, and Duty Youth Advocates and Assigned Youth Advocates in the Youth Court).
5. Priority proceedings will include matters considered to be of such significant national or community importance that the immediate attention of a Judge of the District Court is warranted. This category may include proceedings taken by or that arise out of actions taken by public officials.
6. The selection of priority proceedings is guided by these over-arching principles:
- Liberty of the individual;
- Protection of the at-risk or vulnerable, including children;
- The national and community safety interest;
- Facilitating and promoting public order.
7. Priority proceedings during Alert Level 4 are:
- Applications for Compulsory Treatment Orders, IDCCR, Protection Orders, Without Notice Interim Parenting Orders including enforcement, guardianship disputes (COCA), Without Notice Custody Orders or Place of Safety warrants (Oranga Tamariki); Welfare Guardianship or Property Orders (PPPR).
- Any other application considered by a judge to warrant an urgent hearing or judicial conference.
- Other urgent applications normally considered on the eDuty platform
- During Alert Level 4 the District Court will conduct all priority proceedings in the criminal jurisdiction. The District Court recognises that the conduct of additional proceedings in the criminal jurisdiction should be subject to ongoing consultation with leaders of the profession.
- The priority proceedings are:
a. All those involving defendants who are in custody and due to appear during the Alert Level 4 period, including those involving defendants who are in custody for a scheduled appearance during Alert Level 4.
b. Sentencing of defendants who are in custody where sentencing can be brought forward and rescheduled by arrangement with the relevant stakeholders to a sentencing date agreed to by counsel.
c. Urgent applications (heard by AVL unless directed otherwise by the presiding Judge) for variation of conditions of Bail including EM Bail on a hearing date agreed to by counsel.
d. Section 147 applications (heard by AVL unless directed otherwise by the presiding Judge) that may be determinative in relation to a particular proceeding, and other pre-trial applications, where counsel consent but that do not require evidence or the presence of a defendant.
e. Appearances at an Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court which will be by way of telephone or AVL, subject to availability. Where a participant is in custody awaiting entry into treatment any further remand in custody by consent is to be dealt with by telephone or AVL subject to availability. In any other case the matter is to be listed before a Judge dealing with custody hearings.
f. Applications made under the Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015 including:
i. For new offenders arriving into the country and requiring an initial application for interim special conditions; or
ii. For offenders who have interim special conditions (or extensions to interim special conditions) which are about to expire; or
iii. For offenders who require variations to their interim or final special conditions
8. Priority proceedings will also include any other matter considered by a Judge to warrant urgent judicial consideration or determination. Any person may apply to the Registrar for reference of a particular matter to the consideration of a Judge for a determination of urgency under this provision.
9. Following on from consultation with the leaders of the profession and other relevant stakeholders, the Chief District Court Judge may, from time to time, vary this protocol by, amongst other things, adding additional proceedings that can be conducted during Alert Level 4.
- The Youth Court will only deal with priority proceedings where Alert Level 4 applies.
- Priority proceedings in the Youth Court are those affecting the liberty of children and young persons including bail applications, early release hearings, secure care applications, the extension of any remand under s238(1)(d) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and any consideration of an order under s283 which may result in the release of a child or young person from custody.
- In any priority proceeding the Youth Court will operate to the extent practicable with remote participation by way of AVL.
- At the commencement of Alert Level 4 all cases which are not priority proceedings will be administratively adjourned for two weeks from their existing scheduled hearing date.
- Injunction applications, Harmful Digital Communication applications, Restraining Order applications, and Tenancy Tribunal Appeals considered by a judge to warrant an urgent hearing.
10. To the extent practicable, and subject to workforce capacity levels, the District Court may conduct other proceedings in all jurisdictions by AVL or by telephone link involving a judge and counsel, provided that;
a. the use of AVL or telephone link is lawful in the particular proceeding; and
b. counsel consents; and
c. it is determined by the judge to be otherwise appropriate for the matter to proceed in that manner, including for the attendance of parties (including the attendance of a defendant in a criminal proceeding) to be excused; and
11. Remote access to the particular proceeding would be available pursuant to paragraphs 18 and 19.
12. Entry to the court is restricted during Alert Level 4 and will be limited to members of the Judiciary, Ministry of Justice staff members, counsel, accredited news media and other permitted or required defendants, parties, stakeholders or other persons. Any person who enters the court must observe all Ministry of Health distancing, hygiene and other relevant health requirements and any additional requirements imposed by the Ministry of Justice and any relevant conditions imposed by a judge.
13. Defendants on bail, victims and members of the public (including a whānau support person or persons for a defendant) whose presence is not required at court will not be permitted to enter unless granted permission by the presiding Judge. Such permission should be sought in the first instance by email to the Registrar in advance (if granted this must be supplied to the Court Security Officer at the front entrance), or alternatively, on the day of the hearing by requesting a Court Security Officer at the front entrance to convey an application via the registrar to the Presiding Judge. All such applications will need to identify the reason or reasons why permission is sought and will be determined on a case-by-case basis by a judge who may impose conditions in relation to any permission which is granted.
14. Public counters will be closed, and all documents can be filed by email to the Registrar.
15. Identification for contact tracing purposes is required to be produced in order to gain entry to the court.
16. Masks are to be worn at all times within the courthouse, unless permission is given by a judge for the removal of a mask.
17. Any person who is unwell, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or required to be either in isolation or quarantine will be refused entry to the court.
18. A number of courtrooms now have a virtual hearing facility for all counsel, court participants, defendants on bail, victims and accredited media to participate in priority proceedings by AVL from their homes or offices. A Judge and Registrar would generally be in the courtroom, except in situations where the judge determines it to be inappropriate. Counsel are encouraged to appear by AVL where practicable. Registries will advise when these facilities are available.
19. Accredited news media will be afforded remote access to the court in order to report court proceedings, and to ensure continued open and transparent justice. Media representatives should introduce themselves to the judge when present remotely at any hearing.
20. If a local Judge is unavailable to hear a bail application, any other Judge will, where practicable, in appropriate cases, be allocated to hear the application by AVL. Counsel should apply to the Registry in these cases.
The statutory function of the Chief District Court Judge is to determine the rostering of judges and scheduling of work. Rostering and scheduling will continue to be determined by the Chief District Court Judge in consultation with the National Judicial Resource Manager and the National Scheduler.
Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu
6 October 2020, amended 18 February 2021, current as at 30 June 2021
Nothing in this document is intended to reduce fair trial rights, the right to natural justice, or rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
1. This protocol outlines how the District Court plans to operate at Alert Level 1.
2. At Alert Level 1, the District Court will carry out all its usual scheduled work.
3. Criminal, Family, Youth and Civil proceedings will, in general, return to normal operation. Whānau and other support people will be permitted to attend court.
4. The use of remote participation will remain available for use on application in appropriate cases, such as purely procedural matters, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
5. The District Court will conduct all scheduled criminal work in Alert Level 1.
Defendants in Custody
6. All defendants who are in Police custody or Corrections custody will appear in person for all scheduled appearances during the Alert Level 1 period, unless directed to appear by AVL.
7. The District Court will conduct all Family Court cases that are scheduled during Alert Level 1.
8. This protocol outlines how the Youth Court will operate under Alert Level 1.
9. The work of the court will gradually transition to full capacity. This protocol recognises that, notwithstanding the move to Alert Level 1 some concerns amongst participants in the Youth Court may continue, particularly regarding gatherings in confined areas and smaller facilities.
10. The content of this protocol will be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
11. As was the case under Alert Level 2, AVL appearances are no longer the default position, although there will be circumstances that may necessitate the use of AVL. Appearance in-person remains the default position. The number of in-person appearances made by young people will increase for monitoring events and other substantive hearings.
12. The safety of young persons and their whānau (especially those aged over 70 or with pre-existing health conditions) remains of paramount concern for the court and all professionals involved in the Youth Justice process. Youth Court professionals are expected to continue working collaboratively to uphold the primary objective of keeping all court participants safe. This may involve measures to limit the need for travel to courts for young persons and their whānau, and remote participation of stakeholders, where this is justified, and it is practicable to do so.
13. All professionals are expected to appear in-person, unless an application is made to the court in advance of the hearing and in writing to appear remotely.
14. For Lay Advocates specifically, home visits must proceed with caution under Alert Level 1. If a Lay Advocate wishes to undertake a home visit, they should firstly confer with whānau and ensure they agree to this. Lay Advocates are expected to appear in-person, unless an application is made to the court in advance of the hearing and in writing to appear remotely.
15. The Youth Court appointment system will continue to operate, ensuring young persons and their whānau continue to be provided privacy. The expectation remains that parties who attend in-person are punctual and do not attend court earlier or remain at court any later than their appointment time. Specific appointment times will be allocated for each case.
16. The Youth Court process for permitted support persons in court does not apply under Alert Level 1.
17. There are cases where hearings have been delayed as a result of the earlier alert levels. The Youth Court will continue to prioritise those cases affecting the liberty of young people and where decisions need to be made affecting those who are already in custody.
18. There are five operating principles under Alert Level 1:
a) Prioritisation of cases
i) Under Alert Level 1, Judges will continue to review cases where the young person is on bail or at large to identify those cases which require priority attention, including those awaiting a Family Group Conference to be reported back to the court, monitoring appearances, Judge Alone Trials, disposition hearings and CP (MIP) hearings.
ii) Oranga Tamariki will continue to advise the court of progress on other active cases, for example those progressing towards agreeing FGC plans for FGCs already directed, or progress on FGC plans already under judicial monitoring.
iii) In some cases, the information currently on file might not reflect the need for urgent attention due to a change in circumstances or other issues that have arisen since the adjournment. For those cases Youth Advocates are to confer with the Police, Oranga Tamariki, Lay Advocates and other agencies or professionals, such as Communication Assistants involved whose input is required and provide an agreed memorandum as to any issues requiring urgent attention and the directions sought to advance matters.
iv) Judges will continue to convene pre-hearing conferences as required, with remote participation by Youth Advocates, Youth Aid, Oranga Tamariki and other professionals as appropriate. It is not expected that young people will attend these conferences. Youth Advocates, Police, Social Workers and other appointed professionals must discuss the issues for consideration at the conference in advance so that wherever possible an agreed position can be put before the Judge.
b) Young People who have been arrested and are in Police Custody
i) Young persons who are arrested are to be brought before a Youth Court in person for consideration of bail. Under Alert Level 1, the young person is to be brought to the nearest courthouse which is open and operating. An application may be made to a Judge for such an appearance of the young person to be by AVL where appearance in person is not practicable.
c) Young People in Oranga Tamariki Custody and Corrections Custody
i) For those already in custody in Residences or in Corrections custody, appearances are to be in-person for any substantive hearings affecting the young person. These include opposed bail applications, early release hearings, secure care applications, and disposition hearings of all types. An application may be made to a Judge for such an appearance of the young person to be by AVL.
ii) It remains vital to ensure that any in-person appearances for those in custody are in fact necessary. Youth Advocates are requested to consider whether application should be made for attendance to be excused where nothing substantive is to be decided and provide a memorandum to the Judge where that is appropriate seeking such a direction.
iii) Moving young people and their escorts from Residence to Court may be constrained by logistical limitations. In instances where inter-regional and/or air travel would be required, case-by-case determinations will need to be made around whether appearances may be by AVL or transferred to a court nearest the residence.
d) Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act proceedings
i) In relation to Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act proceedings decisions will need to continue to be made in each case as to how best to proceed. Special hearing arrangements will need to be considered and directions given by Judges. Youth Advocates are again requested to consider any of these cases which they have and to seek directions from a Judge after consulting with the Police, Oranga Tamariki, forensic services, and any other agency or professional such as Communication Assistants involved whose input is necessary.
e) Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts
i) Youth Court sittings on Marae and at Pasifika venues will not resume until it is considered by all participants to be safe to do so. Where cases were being heard at Te Kōti Rangatahi or Pasifika Courts but are now being heard at courthouses Youth Advocates and Lay Advocates are requested to advise the court whether the young person and whānau seek to have cultural processes such as karakia and pepeha incorporated in their hearing.
19. The District Court will conduct all civil cases that are scheduled during Alert Level 1.
20. Under Alert Level 1, appeals adjourned under Alerts Levels 3 and 4 have been accorded priority and rescheduled for hearing.
21. Hearings will proceed face to face as was the usual practice prior to the introduction of Alert Level restrictions. Nevertheless, with consent of the parties, appeals may be determined on the papers without hearing.
22. Notices of Appeal, associated documents and communications can continue to be filed electronically in the Accident Compensation Appeals District Court Registry, managed by Tribunals, Wellington at: AppealsACR@justice.govt.nz
Health and Safety
23. Any person who is unwell, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or advised or required to be either in isolation or quarantine must not seek and will be refused entry to the court.
24. The court precincts will be open to the public. Physical distancing and the wearing of masks is encouraged.
25. The Ministry of Justice will provide the hygiene measures described on their website .
26. Any concerns about health and safety practices in the District Court should be raised with the local court manager in the first instance.
Community Transmission Response
27. At Alert Level 1, it remains possible that a new outbreak of COVID-19 community transmission may be confirmed within the location served by a courthouse. In that event the court will rely on official advice. Steps may be taken to reduce in-person attendances at the court to help protect those working or appearing there. The extent of any reduction will depend on the circumstances and official advice or notices.
Rostering and Scheduling
28. During Alert Level 1, rostering of Judges and scheduling of work will be determined by the Chief District Court Judge in consultation with the National Judicial Resource Manager and the National Scheduler.