Corrections Minister Anne Tolley and Courts Minister Chester Borrows have welcomed the addition of the Whangarei, Nelson and Hutt Valley courts to the audio visual link (AVL) network connecting courts and prisons.
The new links are the latest in a $27.8 million upgrade programme, which is expanding AVL links to a total of 18 courts and 13 prisons by 2015.
The new system increases safety and security for the public, prison officers and court staff, by allowing prisoners at connected facilities to make court appearances at any connected court in the country, without having to leave prison.
“If a prisoner makes a court appearance via AVL then any risk of escape associated with transport in and out of jail is removed completely,” Tolley says.
“It is also much more efficient and safer for staff, who don’t have to spend time planning and carrying out transport duties. Around 40,000 remand court appearances are made each year, and with the discretion of judges, a significant number of these will be able to take place while the prisoner remains behind the wire.”
One of the big gains from AVL according to Borrows is that a prisoner can be booked into a specific time slot rather than waiting in the holding cells for their case to be called, enabling the court to better manage its time and reduce delays.
Borrows also noted the significant challenge of installing AVL into a working court.
“The installation of AVL has been completed in these courts without disrupting their normal operations," he adds.
"This means installing thousands of metres of cables outside of normal business hours or at times the court was not sitting.”
The AVL programme is a joint initiative of the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Justice and is enabled by the Courts (Remote Participation) Act. AVL was first installed in the Auckland District Court in August 2010, followed by installations in Hamilton, Manukau, Christchurch, New Plymouth, and at the Mason Clinic in Auckland.
Six prisons currently have AVL - at Arohata, Christchurch Women’s, Christchurch Men’s, Whanganui, Mt Eden, and Waikeria.