The Gore District Court has become the subject of criticism with lawyers complaining to the New Zealand Law Society saying they can’t confidentially discuss cases with clients in custody there.
Stuff reported that the Ministry of Justice has no plans to intervene after hearing of the issues from the Law Society.
“Like other small, low volume courthouses, the Gore courthouse has one cell,” said a Ministry of Justice spokesperson.
“The cell has clean painted brick block walls and includes a fixed heater, fixed bench seat, and a toilet behind a privacy screen.”
However, one lawyer said conversations often took place in front of other prisoners or security staff, in a hallway or in a holding cell.
But the Ministry of Justice spokesperson said that interview rooms are available for people not in custody to meet with a lawyer.
“For people who have been remanded in custody, as the Gore courthouse does not have a secure interview room, through a managed process lawyers can meet their clients next door at the Police Station. Alternatively, they meet their client in prison if they are being held on remand,” the spokesperson said.
“The Ministry has no plans to install an interview room at the courthouse because the number of criminal cases handled in the court has steadily declined in the last 30 years.”
Figures show that 1,100 adults were prosecuted there in 1980/81, but a significant drop has occurred over the following four decades. Just 272 cases appeared before the Gore District Court in 2014/15..
The Ministry said the dropping number of people appearing for sentencing and the decision not to build an interview room doesn’t mean the courthouse will be closed (as other small courthouses have after the Canterbury earthquakes).
The Independent Police Complaints Authority, which monitors conditions and treatment of detainees in police custody, told Stuff it had not received a complaint regarding the Gore Courthouse.
“If we received a complaint about a breach of a person's rights we would initiate an investigation,” an IPCA spokesperson said.