02 Nov 2015
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About to appear in court? Book a text message reminder for the day...

By Heather Wright

A new text message reminder service has gone live ensuring those appearing in court have one less excuse for failing to appear.

The new service offers defendants the option to receive an automated text message the day before their district court hearing, reminding them of the date, time and location of their court appearance.

Justice Minister Amy Adams says text reminders are commonplace for many sorts of appointments, from hospital to hairdressers.

“This new service should help defendants by prompting them the day before they are due in court,” Adams says.

“District courts deal with hundreds of thousands of cases every year. While we’ve made significant strides in improving the scheduling of appearances and using judges’ time and court facilities efficiently, it’s pointless if defendants miss their appearances,” Adams says.

She says many criminal cases are cancelled because the defendant simply doesn’t show up, with a four to six per cent ‘no show’ rate in case review, sentencing and judge-along trial events. That amounts to more than 3500 court events being re-scheduled each year alongside the issue of 3500 arrest warrants for those who fail to attend court.

“This wastes the time of everyone in court, including the judge, lawyers, witnesses and victims, and draws out the time it takes for the case to be resolved.  In addition to being inefficient, this increases stress on victims,” Adams says.

The new service is part of a wider strategy to modernise the courts and speed up the time taken for district court cases to reach a conclusion. 

It will initially be offered to criminal defendants with the intention to extend it to family and civil court users and dispute tribunal users in the near future.

“The courts play a fundamental role in enforcing law and upholding the rights of individuals, and the quality of services experienced by New Zealanders in our courts is important,” says Adams. 

“Fewer delays and faster service lets people get through the process and get on with their lives.”

Defendants can sign up for the text service at the Ministry of Justice site, by calling the 0800 268 787 or by asking in person at the nearest courthouse.

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