The power of two in making the court day go further

By Community Magistrate Leigh Langridge

Image of Community Magistrate Leigh Langridge

In April 2018, the Community Magistrates at the Manukau District Court started double-session court sittings every Monday and Friday. 

Instead of one Community Magistrate sitting from 10am until 5pm, there are now two Community Magistrates, one allocated to a longer morning session and the other to an extended afternoon session.

Typically, a Community Magistrate arrives 45 minutes before court starts to review the files for that day. The morning session runs from 8.30 am until 12.45pm, and includes two short breaks. This session deals with breaches of bail where bail is not opposed, voluntary appearances, first appearances on arrest matters where bail is not opposed, timetabled sentencing matters and other general sentencing matters which are set down from the Registrar’s court throughout the day (Registrar’s courts deal with the procedural management of non-custodial criminal cases prior to events before a Community Magistrate or Judge).

The afternoon session runs from 1.15pm until 5.30pm, also with two breaks.  This session deals primarily with late arrests and all opposed bail applications.  It also deals with voluntary appearances and general sentencing matters coming from the Registrar’s court.

It is hoped the extended hours will give more people who need to appear in court greater opportunity to arrange their appearances around their work and family commitments.

The new sitting times also allow Community Magistrates to focus their preparation on either sentencing matters or opposed bail matters, and this should lead to better preparation for both.

It is hoped the extended hours will give more people who need to appear in court greater opportunity to arrange their appearances around their work and family commitments.

Police, probation staff and lawyers also benefit from having all opposed bail applications moved to the afternoon.  With more time in the morning for Police and Probation to prepare written oppositions to bail, the Community Magistrates are now hearing fewer oral bail applications.  

Lawyers and their clients also benefit from having this extra time in the morning to discuss the charges and prepare responses to the reasons their bail is being opposed.  

In any court, but particularly in busy courts such as Manukau, everyone stands to benefit when there is more time to consider files, and to ensure all issues have been identified before a decision is given.

It promotes the orderly and effective administration of justice and particularly people’s right to a fair hearing.