High Court: Current COVID-19 Protocol

Contents 

Protocol - 5 March 2021: Operations under COVID-19 Alert Level 1

Persons in isolation and quarantine

Remote hearings

Remote participation by witnesses in criminal hearings

Past Protocols, previous alert levels

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Protocol: COVID-19 Alert Level 1

Hon Justice S E Thomas
Chief High Court Judge – Te Kaiwhakawā Matua
5 March 2021

1.  At Alert Level 1, the High Court will carry out all its usual scheduled work both from the home and circuit registries.

2.  Criminal and civil proceedings will, in general, return to normal operations subject to the terms of the orders made under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

3.  Criminal jury trials will proceed as usual. In relation to other criminal hearings, where defendants in custody are required to attend a hearing, they will appear in person unless directed to appear by AVL or audio link (see ss 8, 8A and 9 of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010).

4.  All civil proceedings will proceed as normal. There are modifications that have been made to the High Court Rules 2016 by the High Court (COVID-19 Preparedness) Amendment Rules 2020 that address matters such as electronic filing, methods of service, swearing of affidavits, and alternative means of participating in hearings (see also s 7A of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010).  Some of these amendments only remain in effect while the notice under s 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 is in force, although it is anticipated that such a notice will remain in effect during Alert Level 1.

5.  The Ministry has introduced an online “File and Pay” system.

6.  If counsel, or other persons required or proposing to attend a hearing (for example, a party) are unwell, they should not attend Court.  If this applies, the presiding judge should be advised so that alternative arrangements for the appearance can be made.

7.  The Court precincts will be open to the public. Use of the QR code or keeping a personal record is strongly encouraged.

8.  Physical distancing and the wearing of masks is encouraged.

9.  The Ministry of Justice will provide the hygiene measures described on their website.

10. Any concerns about health and safety practices in the Court should be raised with the Court Manager in the first instance.

  

Protocol: COVID-19 Alert Level 2

Hon Justice S E Thomas
Chief High Court Judge – Te Kaiwhakawā Matua
5 March 2021

1.  Courts are an essential service. For Regions at Alert Level 2, and subject to the restriction noted below, the High Court will carry out all its usual scheduled work both from the home and circuit registries that can be safely supported.  This requires the co-operation of all parties to ensure the courts function to the fullest extent they safely can in performance of their constitutional role.

2.  The restriction is if counsel, or other persons required or proposing to attend a hearing (for example, a party) are at higher risk of severe illness, immune-compromised or with a relevant underlying health condition, they should not attend Court. If this applies, the presiding judge should be advised so that the situation can be addressed.

3.  The Court will continue with the following measures:

(a)  Circuit work not involving witnesses may be conducted remotely by Microsoft Teams, VMR, AVL or telephone hearings;

(b)  Where appropriate, matters will be dealt with on the papers or by a direct telephone conference, or remote means with counsel / parties to avoid the need for unnecessary in person attendances at Court;

(c)  Jury trials will proceed.

(d)  Sentencing hearings will continue to take place in person, although applications to appear via AVL or other remote means will be considered in appropriate cases. The number of support persons and victims attending in person may be limited by the judge, or arrangements may be made for persons to view the proceedings by remote means;

(e)  Judges and counsel will consider whether defendants in criminal procedural matters ought to be excused from attendance or (where necessary) attend by AVL;

(f)  Documents may be filed electronically or by post or courier. Address details are contained in Addendum 1.  Filing Fees will be payable unless a waiver is applied for.  Rule 5.1B(2) of the High Court Rules provides for payment of filing fees by alternative means, including at the Registrar’s discretion, credit card, electronic banking or solicitor’s undertaking. High Court (Covid-19 Preparedness) Amendment Rules rules 5.1A and 5.1B.  The Ministry has also introduced an online “file and pay” system.

(g)  Sherriff proceedings can be filed but execution will only take place in urgent cases.

Health and safety

4.  Where counsel, parties and/or witnesses are required to attend Court the hearings will be held in courtrooms that enable physical distancing of at least one metre.

5.  Parties should wait outside the courtroom until their matter is scheduled and vacate the courtroom once their hearing has concluded.

6.  In list courts where physical appearances are required the Courts will operate on a case by case call basis. Parties may be required to wait outside the courtroom until their case is called.

7.  Witnesses required to attend Court should not enter the courthouse until just prior to their scheduled attendance and may bring their own religious text for taking the oath. Gloves will be provided for those who wish to use the court bible, which will continue to be available. 

8.  So far as possible, counsel should take instructions and brief witnesses outside the courthouse, to minimise demand on interview rooms. Larger rooms will be made available as far as practicable for interviews, and counsel may request breaks to take instructions safely using those facilities.

9.  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 from 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 applications will need to give the reason or reasons why permission is sought and will be determined on a case by case basis. Entry will be denied to any person who is unwell, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or required to be in either quarantine or self-isolation.

10. The following hygiene practices can be expected:

(a)  Those working in the courtroom, including counsel and security staff, are required to maintain 1 metre physical distancing, and alternate seats in public galleries will be taped off.

(b)  Cleaning products are available on site to enable staff and lawyers to keep their immediate areas clean (including AVL suites). 

(c)  Hand sanitiser will be readily available within the courtroom.

(d)  The court will not normally permit documents to be handed up. Documents that parties wish to produce should be scanned and shared by email at the appropriate time.

(e)  All those attending court should wear a mask in public areas and courtrooms.

(f)  Counsel, defendants, parties and witnesses may be required to remove masks when speaking.

(g)  Gloves may be worn.

11.  Any concerns about health and safety practices in the court should be raised with the court manager in the first instance.

12.  Accredited news media will continue to have entry to the court in order to report court proceedings, and to ensure continued open and transparent justice. Remote access for accredited news media, will continue to be facilitated in accordance with current protocols.

13.  In the event of community transmission within a courthouse catchment area, public health advice will be taken and further directions given. Steps may be taken to reduce in-person attendances at the court to help protect those working or appearing there.

Expectations of Counsel

14.  Counsel are expected to assist the court by

(a)  Briefing clients and witnesses on public health measures including:

(i)  Not to come to court if unwell

(ii) To advise counsel as early as possible if they are unable to attend court

(iii) Physical distancing expectations in the courthouse and precincts

(iv) How exhibits and other documents will be handled in their case

(v)  What they may expect by way of PPE and hygiene supplies in the courthouse

(vi) The limits on attendance by support persons and members of the public.

(b)  Reducing the need for attendance in the courthouse by counsel, their clients and witnesses by reviewing each attendance in advance and:

(i)  Seeking remote participation in appropriate cases;

(ii) Seeking excusals from appearances in administrative hearings;

(iii) Limiting the number of witnesses via the use of agreed facts.

(c)  Counsel should consider and endeavour to agree whether it is appropriate for any witness to participate remotely and advise the Court of any such proposals well in advance of the hearing date. The relevant provisions, r 3.4A of the High Court Rules 2016, the Evidence Act 2006, and the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010, will govern whether and how any witness may give evidence remotely.  Also refer to the Guidelines for remote participation by witnesses in criminal hearings on this website;

(d)  Raising any deficiencies with cleaning, the availability of cleaning supplies or physical distancing with the site manager immediately. 

ADDENDUM 1

Addresses for filing electronically and by mail

All electronic filing is to be to the following addresses:        

Auckland High Court: aucklandhc@justice.govt.nz

Wellington High Court: wellingtonhc@justice.govt.nz

Christchurch High Court: christchurchhc@justice.govt.nz

If any party wishes to contact the court regarding an urgent matter, these emails are also the addresses to use.  

All filing by mail is to be to these addresses:

Auckland High Court: PO Box 60, Auckland

Wellington High Court: PO Box 1091 or DX 11199, Wellington

Christchurch High Court: 20 Lichfield Street, Christchurch or DX WX10021, Christchurch

 

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Protocol: COVID-19 Alert Level 3

Hon Justice S E Thomas

Chief High Court Judge – Te Kaiwhakawā Matua
28 February 2021

1.  Courts are an essential service.  For Regions at Alert Level 3 and subject to the restriction noted below, the High Court will carry out all its usual scheduled work both from the home and circuit registries that can be safely supported. 

2.  Circuit business will be conducted where possible by remote participation including Microsoft Teams, VMR, AVL or telephone from the home registries.

3.   Jury trials currently underway are suspended for the week, except for any trial in its final stages, if so directed by the trial judge.

4.  There will be no criminal jury trials commenced during Alert Level 3.  The Court will continue to deal with other criminal work by remote means including first appearances, bail applications and appeals, conviction and sentence appeals, case review hearings, sentence indications, pre-trial matters and sentencings.

5.  Substantive civil fixtures involving witnesses with upcoming hearing dates will be reviewed.  It is likely that remote means of participation will be required for proceedings that proceed. 

6.  Apart from the above restrictions, the Court will conduct as much of its usual civil business as can be safely supported, including habeas corpus, civil appeals, judicial review, summary judgments, caveats, interlocutory applications, injunctions, and originating applications.  Again, participation will generally be by remote participation. 

7.  List Courts, including bankruptcy and liquidation will continue.  Where practicable matters will be rescheduled as telephone conferences.

8.  Applications for probate will be accepted and processed.  General Registrar work will be carried out.  Sherriff proceedings can be made but execution will only take place in urgent situations.

9.  Documents may be filed electronically or by post or courier.  Address details are contained in Addendum 1.  Filing Fees will be payable unless a waiver has been applied for.  Rule 5.1B(2) of the High Court Rules provides for payment of filing fees by alternative means, including at the Registrar’s discretion, credit card, electronic banking or solicitor’s undertaking.  High Court (COVID-19 Preparedness) Amendment Rules 2020 r 5.1A and 5.1B] The Ministry has also introduced an online “file and pay” system

10.  The Court will modify its procedures in the following ways:

(a)  If counsel, or other persons proposing to attend a hearing (for example, a party) are at higher risk of severe illness, immune-compromised or with a relevant underlying health condition, they should not attend Court.  If this applies, the presiding judge should be advised immediately;

(b)  Judges will review cases to determine if they can appropriately be heard by remote means.  That may involve the Judge sitting in Court with counsel joining by the relevant technology, including telephone.  The hearing may be recorded by FTR in the usual way;

(c)  List Judges will review files and deal with as many as they can on the papers or by a direct telephone conference or remote means with counsel / parties to avoid the need for unnecessary in person attendances at Court;

(d)  The High Court Amendment Rules 2020 enable the Court to deal with unexecuted documents including affidavits [Link to Rule 9.73];

(e)  The court will not normally permit documents to be handed up.  Documents that parties wish to produce should be scanned and shared by email at the appropriate time.

(f)  Where in person hearings are required they will be held in larger courtrooms to provide more physical distancing;

(g)  In list courts where physical appearances are required the Courts will operate on a case by case call basis. Parties may be required to wait outside the courtroom until their case is called;

(h)  Witnesses required to attend Court should not enter the courthouse until just prior to their scheduled attendance. Physical distancing is to be maintained at all times.  They may bring their own religious text for taking the oath.  Gloves will be provided for those who wish to use the court bible, which will continue to be available;

(i)  Sentencing hearings will be reviewed.  They may be dealt with by AVL or other remote means to avoid the unnecessary movement of prisoners; 

(j)  Other criminal procedural hearings will be reviewed, and where appropriate conducted remotely.  Judges and counsel will consider whether defendants in criminal procedural should be excused from attendance or (where necessary) attend by AVL or other remote means;

11.  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 from 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 applications will need to give the reason or reasons why permission is sought and will be determined on a case by case basis. Entry will be denied to any person who is unwell, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or required to be in either quarantine or self-isolation. 

12.  The following hygiene practices can be expected: 

(a)  Those working in the courtroom, including counsel and security staff, are required to maintain 1 m physical distancing, and alternate seats in public galleries will be taped off.

(b)  Cleaning products are available on site to enable staff and lawyers to keep their immediate areas clean (including AVL suites). 

(c)  Face masks should be worn other than when being required to speak in court.  Gloves may be worn. 

(d)  Hand sanitiser will be readily available within the courtroom.  

13.  Any concerns about health and safety practices in the court should be raised with the court manager in the first instance.

14.  Accredited news media will continue to have entry to the court in order to report court proceedings, and to ensure continued open and transparent justice.  Remote access for accredited news media, will continue to be facilitated in accordance with current protocols.

15.  In the event of community transmission within a courthouse catchment area, public health advice will be taken and further directions given. 

Expectations of Counsel

16.  Counsel are expected to assist the court by

a. Briefing clients and witnesses on public health measures including:

(i) Not to come to court if unwell

(ii) To advise counsel as early as possible if they are unable to attend court

(iii) Physical distancing expectations in the courthouse and precincts

(iv) How exhibits and other documents will be handled in their case

(v) What they may expect by way of PPE and hygiene supplies in the courthouse

(vi) The limits on attendance by support persons and members of the public.

b. Reducing the need for attendance in the courthouse by counsel, their clients and witnesses by reviewing each attendance in advance and: 

(i)   Seeking remote participation in appropriate cases;

(ii)  Seeking excusals from appearances in administrative hearings;

(iii) Limiting the number of witnesses via the use of agreed facts.

c.  Counsel should consider and endeavour to agree whether it is appropriate for any witness to participate remotely and advise the Court of any such proposals well in advance of the hearing date.  The relevant provisions, r 3.4A of the High Court Rules 2016, the Evidence Act 2006, and the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010, will govern whether and how any witness may give evidence remotely. 

17.  Raising any deficiencies with cleaning, the availability of cleaning supplies or physical distancing with the site manager immediately 


Persons in isolation and quarantine

The High Court has issued a protocol covering persons in isolation and quarantine.

This protocol recognises that there may be regional variations and that local solutions may be necessary to best address local issues. 


Remote hearings

The High Court has issued a protocol for conducting remote hearings.

This contains procedural instructions and technical information for counsel, parties, witnesses, media, and other observers who will be remotely participating in hearings in this Court.

The Protocol also contains instructions for people who wish to attend a hearing in person.  Please refer to these instructions if you are unsure whether you are able to attend in person. 


Remote participation by witnesses in criminal hearings

The High Court has issued guidelines for remote participation by witnesses in criminal hearings.

These guidelines outline practical considerations for judges and participants when considering and determining whether witnesses can, and if so, should, give evidence remotely in criminal trials.




Protocol: COVID-19 Alert Level 1

Hon Justice S E Thomas
Chief High Court Judge – Te Kaiwhakawā Matua
6 October 2020

This protocol comes into effect at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 7 October.

1.  At Alert Level 1, the High Court will carry out all its usual scheduled work both from the home and circuit registries.

2.  Criminal and civil proceedings will, in general, return to normal operations subject to the terms of the orders made under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

3.  Criminal jury trials will proceed as usual.  In relation to other criminal hearings, where defendants in custody are required to attend a hearing, they will appear in person unless directed to appear by AVL or audio link (see ss 8, 8A and 9 of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010).

4.  All civil proceedings will proceed as normal.  There are modifications that have been made to the High Court Rules 2016 by the High Court (COVID-19 Preparedness) Amendment Rules 2020 that address matters such as electronic filing, methods of service, swearing of affidavits, and alternative means of participating in hearings (see also s 7A of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act).  Some of these amendments only remain in effect while the notice under s 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 is in force, although it is anticipated that such a notice will remain in effect during Alert Level 1.

5.  If counsel, or other persons required or proposing to attend a hearing (for example, a party) are unwell, they should not attend Court.  If this applies, the presiding judge should be advised so that alternative arrangements for the appearance can be made.

6.  The Court precincts will be open to the public. Use of the QR code or keeping a personal record is strongly encouraged.

7.  The Ministry of Justice will provide the hygiene measures described on their website.

8.  Any concerns about health and safety practices in the Court should be raised with the Court Manager in the first instance.


Protocols during past alert levels

The information on this page reflects the current COVID-19 alert levels. 

For High Court protocols during past alert levels please refer to:


Protocol - 5 March 2021: Operations under COVID-19 Alert Level 2
Protocol - 28 February 2021: Operations under COVID-19 Alert Level 3
6 October 2020: Protocol, COVID-19 Alert Level 1
Protocol: COVID-19 Alert Level 1, (rest of the country), September 2020

Protocol: COVID-19 Alert Level 2, (Auckland region), September 2020
Protocol: COIVD-19 Alert Level 2, August 2020
Protocol during Alert Level 3 (August 2020, Auckland region)
Protocol during Alert Level 1 (June 2020)
Protocol during Alert Level 2 (May-June 2020)
Protocol during Alert Level 3 (April-May 2020)
Protocol during Alert Level 4 (9 April 2020)