Limitations on members of the public entering courthouses during COVID-19 alert level 4

The Chief Justice has advised that the judiciary has taken steps, under s 197 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, to exclude members of the public who are not required for that day’s court business, unless they have obtained prior approval to attend. This applies to criminal proceedings only and applies with immediate effect.

Section 197 provides that a court may exclude members of the public when necessary to avoid endangering the safety of any person present, to avoid undue disruptions to the conduct of proceedings, or to avoid prejudicing the maintenance of the law.

This step has been taken to observe the requirements of the COVID-19 alert level 4 and to protect the safety of those who must attend at court, including court staff and lawyers.

Lawyers will, of course, be allowed to enter the building but may need to show a form of identification which includes a photograph.

Media will also be permitted access to courthouses to ensure that the principles of open justice are maintained.

As for priority civil matters, including priority Family Court proceedings, there will be signs on the court doors advising who to contact for assistance to gain access, and information available on the following websites

Courts of NZ website COVID-19 updates and Court Protocols
District Court website:
Ministry of Justice:
Courts of NZ Twitter account: @courtsofnz
District Court Twitter account: @NZDistrictCourt

Supporters of people appearing in person will be denied entry to courthouses unless they get advance permission from the presiding Judge. Permission can ONLY be requested by telephoning the Ministry of Justice Contact Centre 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787).

Read the Chief Justice's letter to the profession.
Read the Chief Justices Media Release.
Read NZBA President, Kate Davenport QC's Media Release.

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