A different way to deal with sexual violence cases

Judge Anne Kiernan — Auckland Managing Judge, Sexual Violence Court Pilot

Image of Judge Anne Kiernan.

Judge Anne Kiernan

I am proud to be leading the Sexual Violence Court Pilot at the District Court in Auckland for the first year of operation.

The pilot will last for 2-2 ½ years. It is a judicially-led initiative which has the full support of the Ministry of Justice and works within the existing legislative framework. Judges working in the pilot court have received specialised training, and draw on best practice guidelines developed by a governance board to achieve tighter pre-trial management.

The pilot commenced for all qualifying charges laid on or after 1 December 2016 in both the Auckland and Whangarei courts. Charges include rape and other sexual violation, incest, sexual grooming, indecent assault, possession of publications that depict child exploitation, and intimate visual recordings made without consent.

This is not a separate court, but a different way of dealing with sexual violence cases within the District Court jury-trial jurisdiction when a defendant denies charges and elects trial by jury. In Auckland this work represents almost a third of the jury trial work.

Image of Judge Kiernan and Court Coordinator at work

Judge Kiernan schedules cases with court coordinator Carmina Salud

With practices developing in this pilot court of firm trial dates, intensive judicial management and significant registry and scheduling support, those appearing as defendants, complainants, witnesses or counsel can expect earlier resolution. This is in the interests of the parties but also clearly in the overall interests of justice.

Over the last 21 years I have been closely involved in the development of the way in which our courts manage sexual violation trials. Changes made by the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and the Evidence Act 2006 now ensure a much fairer process and control of proceedings. The pilot court builds on these changes.

 

  

"With the practices developing in this pilot … those appearing as defendants, complainants, witnesses or counsel can expect an earlier resolution"