Prosecutor reduction leads to major court delays, lawyers warn

by Samantha Woodhill11 Jan 2016
Cuts to the number of police prosecutors in Blenheim could clog the entire Marlborough court system, lawyers have warned.

The Police Prosecution Service has reduced the number of prosecutors in the town from two to one as part of a move they say will ‘realign’ the service.  The decision followed the review of 41 police prosecution offices nationwide.

But lawyers in Blenheim have objected to the move, saying it would slow down the justice system and potentially lead to major court clogs, brought to a head last week when the one remaining prosecutor was off sick and a prosecutor from Nelson had to be called in last minute.

“It's just ridiculous.  It doesn't seem to be particularly cost effective.  [These decisions] are made by people that don't know how a small court works,” lawyer Rennie Gould told Stuff.

“It will mean more court appearances and longer lists.”

Judge Richard Russell said the court couldn’t afford to start late on busy days and told police to, “pick up your game”.

Barrister John Holaway said lawyers are unhappy about the changes.

“We had a period of seven months with one prosecutor and he was very stretched,” Holaway said.

“It puts a huge stress on Nelson prosecutors who have to pick up the reins.

“If a prosecutor is not familiar with a case the matter will have to be stood down.  It could potentially clog up the system.

“Having two prosecutors enables everything to run smoothly and everybody has access to justice.”