Justice delayed is one of the results of the travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to justice has been disrupted because the New Zealand judges who would normally preside over cases twice a year in Niue are not able to do their work.
So the Niue High court has found an alternative way to ensure that the court sittings or at least some of the cases, can still be heard via Zoom.
In December last year the Niue High Court trialled a court sitting via zoom with a New Zealand based judge.
According to the Secretary to Justice and Registrar of the High Court Darren Tohovaka (pictured) that sitting via Zoom was found to be acceptable that the Chief Justice Coxhead allowed some of the cases before the Niue High court to be heard via this new medium Zoom.
“It’s very difficult for a judge to come up to Niue with the COVID travel restrictions because that judge will effectively come to Niue and stay in quarantine for fourteen days. So, after discussions and what was agreed and approved by the Chief Justice is to hold sittings via Zoom, and only for those applications which are not disputed and secondly there are no witnesses which need to be called.”
Tohovaka says that the message to the public right now is that the sittings of the High Court will continue.
“Basically, the message for the public is that the courts will still proceed and we will hear the cases under the conditions we have at the moment.
Tohovaka says that the sittings are still being conducted by Land commissioners for the Land court and the criminal cases are still being heard before the Commissioners and Justices of the Peace.
“Our outlook is that if in November the situation will get to where we are able to have the judges come through (from New Zealand) then we will be able to deal with those disputed cases and cases that have been adjourned from the last sittings with the Judges.”
Darren Tohovaka told BCN News that in April there will sittings of the High court via Zoom as directed by Chief Justice Coxhead. These directions are available on the government website and also on the notice board at the Justice Department.