High Court

  • Chief High Court Judge Susan Thomas

    Effective from 13 September 2022

     

    INTRODUCTION

    1.   Courts are an essential service. The High Court will remain open despite the presence of COVID-19 in the community, to ensure access to justice.

    2.   This protocol sets out a framework for ensuring that everyone who needs to participate in proceedings is able to do so. The primary considerations that underpin this protocol, and decisions under it, are the interests of justice and the protection of the health and safety of everyone in the court building.

    3.   This protocol applies subject to any directions given by the presiding judge in a particular case. The presiding judge may direct that requirements set out in this protocol do not apply in a particular case if the judge is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so.

    ENTRY TO COURT BUILDINGS

    4.   The following requirements apply to entry into court buildings:

    a.   A person may not enter the court building if they are showing signs of illness;

    b.   A person who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 7 days may not enter the court building.

    5.   A defendant in criminal proceedings who is required to attend court, but who is unwell or has recently tested positive for COVID-19, should contact the court (in person or through their lawyer) as early as possible in advance of the date on which they are due to appear.  The matter will be referred to a judge. The defendant will then be advised by the registry whether they are required to attend court on that date, or on an alternative date.

    6.   The Courts remain open to the public, but for health and safety reasons there may be limits on the number of people who are not directly involved in proceedings who are permitted to be physically present in courtrooms and court buildings.

    MASKS

    7.   All persons entering the court building may wear a surgical mask or a KN95 mask, and are encouraged to do so when moving around the court building (including courtrooms).[1] Masks will be provided at the entry to the court building for all those who do not have their own mask.

    8.   A surgical mask or KN95 mask must be worn by all persons present in a courtroom, or by specified persons in a courtroom, if the presiding judge so directs.

    CONDUCT OF HEARINGS

    9.   All criminal and civil matters listed for hearing will be conducted in person, unless a judge directs otherwise. Directions may be given for some types of hearing to be conducted remotely. 

    10. A party may seek a direction that a matter should be conducted with all participants appearing remotely.[2] A request for a matter to be conducted remotely should be made with as much notice as possible, and where practicable five working days in advance.

    11.  A party, counsel or other participant may apply to participate in a hearing by remote technology.[3] A request for a participant to appear remotely should be made with as much notice as possible, and where practicable five working days in advance.

    RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS (RATS)

    12.   A court participant who has any symptoms of COVID-19, however minor, must take a RAT before attending court:

    a.   If they test negative, and the symptoms are very minor (e.g., a scratchy throat), they may attend court but must wear a mask at all times.

    b.   If they test negative and the symptoms are more severe (e.g., runny nose, coughing) they must not attend court unless a judge so directs. If they are permitted to attend court, they must wear a mask at all times.  

    c.   If they test positive, they must not attend court: see para 15

    13.   The presiding judge may require that some or all participants in a hearing longer than one day take a RAT in the morning before attending court, on such days as the judge directs, if the judge is satisfied that it is reasonably necessary to do so in the interests of justice and to protect health and safety in the courts.

    14.   The Registry will advise counsel and any party who is not legally represented of the arrangements for obtaining RATs from the court.

    15.   If a court participant receives a positive COVID-19 test result, they must not attend court (and if present at court, must promptly leave). Whether and how the hearing may be able to continue will be a matter for the presiding Judge to determine on a case-by-case basis.

    16.   If a court participant is required to take a RAT, and declines to do so, the presiding Judge will determine whether and how the hearing will proceed.

    GENERAL PROVISIONS

    Jury trials

    17.   The Jury Trial Guidelines will apply to all jury trials. The Guidelines set out additional requirements concerning use of masks and RAT testing for participants in jury trials.

    Media access and remote viewing of hearings

    18.   Accredited news media will 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.

    19.   The Protocol for Remote Viewing of Hearings governs media and public remote access to hearings:

     Protocol for Remote Viewing of Hearings

    Health and safety

    20.   The following health and safety measures can be expected in the court building:

    a.   Cleaning products will be available on site to enable staff and lawyers to keep their immediate areas clean (including AVL suites);

    b.   Hand sanitiser will be readily available within the courtroom;

    c.    Face masks will be readily available in court buildings;

    d.   RAT kits will be available in court buildings.

    21.   Any concerns about health and safety in the Court should be raised with the Court Manager (sole High Court) or the Manager Justice Services (combined Court) in the first instance.

    Expectations of Counsel

    22.   Counsel are expected to assist the Court by:

    a.   Briefing clients and witnesses on the court building entry requirements and RAT testing requirements set out in paragraphs 4–8 and 12–16

    b.   Reducing unnecessary attendance in the court building 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; and

    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.

    Filing and filing fees

    23.   Documents may be filed electronically, by post, courier or in person. Counters will be open. Address details are contained in Addendum 1.

    24.   Filing fees continue to be payable. 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. An online “file and pay” system is available.

    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

    Hamilton High Court:                hamilton.hc@justice.govt.nz

    Rotorua High Court:                  rotorua.hc@justice.govt.nz

    Tauranga High Court:                tauranga.hc@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, use the above email addresses.

    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 SX11199, Wellington

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

     

    [1]        All references to KN95 masks include references to masks of an equivalent standard such as P2 masks.

    [2]        For relevant factors see the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010, ss 5 and 6.

    [3]        For relevant factors see the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010, ss 5 and 6.

     

    High Court operations with COVID-19 in the community - effective from Tuesday 13 September 2022 (PDF, 185 KB)