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‘Disgraceful’ lack of trial dates

‘Disgraceful’ lack of trial dates

A lack of judge-alone trial dates in Ashburton has been slammed as ‘disgraceful’ by a judge.

Several cases awaiting dates for a judge-alone trial in the Ashburton District Court are at risk of being dismissed or transferred to the Timaru District Court due to a lack of court dates.

This comes as the number of judge-alone hearings in Ashburton dropped from above 25 to just six in 2023 following the introduction of a new scheduling system in May last year.

The new priority-based system is designed to funnel resources to district courts with the largest backlog and reduce delays in hearing dates.

But it has left several people in Ashburton waiting for court dates.

At least six cases called before Judge Raoul Neave on Monday were remanded to a nominal date of August 12 due to a lack of court dates.

For some the cases, Judge Neave gave the courts leave to schedule dates in Timaru if the trial could be heard sooner.

This included serious driving charges and a young man with interim name suppression facing sex charges.

In three cases Judge Neave gave an indication that the cases would be dismissed if there was no court date set.

The court was told Te Aroha David James Hape’s had been waiting since April 24, 2023 for a trial date to defend two charges of assault.

“It’s a disgrace” that the court has been unable to allocate a fixture in over 12 months, Judge Neave said.

“This just isn’t good enough. It’s not the court’s fault here either.”

When one woman’s case was called, Judge Neave set a nominal date of August 12. The judge said there was a risk the charges of child assault could be dismissed if no court date was provided the August date.

In a third case, for a man with interim name suppression defending charges of indecently assaulting another man in Hanmer Springs, Judge Neave gave a “directive for dismissal” if there was no court date set by August 12.

By Sharon Davis