One Court / One Judge
An Integrated Court System for New Zealand Families Affected by Violence
The issue: Family violence is prevalent in New Zealand and we have one of the highest rates in the OECD. Families affected by violence are often involved in multiple court proceedings over the space of several months or years and have to appear before multiple judges in multiple courts. These courts include the District Court for criminal proceedings and the Family Court for civil proceedings. Some families may also have younger family members involved in criminal proceedings in the Youth Court.
The project: I explored whether it would be better for families if all their inter-related court proceedings were heard in one court before one judge. This already happens in New York so I flew over there to interview judges, lawyers and court staff to learn how their integrated family violence court system works. I also observed proceedings at various court locations throughout New York and visited a pilot integrated court in Toronto, Canada.
Back in New Zealand I wrote a discussion paper which compared New Zealand's current court system with the integrated court system in New York and Toronto. I concluded that we should introduce an integrated court system in New Zealand because it provides a much better court process for families affected by violence and may also help break the cycle of intergenerational violence. I then developed an integrated family violence court operating model which has several enhancements and is customised to the New Zealand context.
The discussion paper was published and I was keen to get feedback so I invited government and non-government agencies with an interest in our current court system to make submissions. All submissions were then provided to the Ministry of Justice which will ultimately decide whether this type of court system should be introduced in New Zealand.
Funding for this research was generously provided by the New Zealand Law Foundation under a partnership agreement with the Ministry of Justice. Generous logistical support for the research was also provided by the Victoria University Faculty of Law.
Submissions Made By Court Stakeholders