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Courts to be more user-friendly

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/03/2017

A raft of legislative changes that came into force on Wednesday are designed to make the country's courts more modern and user-friendly.

Associate Justice Minister Mark Mitchell says they'll provide a better service for witnesses, court staff, defendants and communities.

The changes flow from the Judicature Modernisation Bill, passed by parliament in October.

"They focus on creating a more people-centred justice system by making it easier to understand and more efficient for people to use," Mr Mitchell said.

One of the most significant changes combines District Courts throughout the country to form the New Zealand District Court.

"This will make it the largest court in Australasia, spanning across 58 court sites and hearing more than 200,000 cases a year," Mr Mitchell said.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue says it's the biggest shift in legislation underpinning the courts for nearly 40 years.

"Instead of a network of separate district courts, the District Court is now consolidated into a unified entity with genera, family, youth and disputes tribunal divisions," she said.

Other changes include:

* Expanding District Court jurisdiction in civil cases from $200,000 to $350,000

* An increase in the number of permanent judges to 160

* Defendants in criminal cases can appear by audio-visual link

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