The Minister of Justice moved swiftly to change the rules on legal aid eligibility following Dame Margaret Bazley's report, but quick-as-a-flash, nothing's been done on her recommendation that creches be set up for kiddies in courts

For the past 17 months I've spent too many days hanging around district courts in Auckland and Lower Hutt as a defendant waiting for the square wheels of justice to slowly turn over. Because the district courts are there for the convenience of those who run them, not for the convenience of those who appear before them, all of us – plaintiffs, applicants, defendants – must appear at ten o'clock and wait patiently until our names are bellowed out over the intercom.

This entails giving up at least half a day to spend in a carpet-stained, hard-chaired, leaflet-lined, boring lobby.

I always took something to read, but usually found someone more interesting to talk to, or study, instead. Often it was another defendant, curious as to why this well-dressed, obviously middle-class woman was appearing month after month waiting for her case to be heard. Despite appearances – tats, "hey bro", Soledad pants, hoodies – there was no lack of intellect. Just education. Quelle surprise.

But the most distressing observation in our courts is seeing the little children being dragged along, day after day, week after week, nothing to do, exposed to the pain their parents are going through. Exposed, sometimes, to the violence which can take place outside the courthouse. Exposed to a world which is not the ideal place for children.

And when Dame Margaret Bazley was doing her report on legal aid, she was shocked, too, by what she saw, and went out of her way to speak out, and recommend a creche system be set up so these children can be looked after while their parents get on with the business of their cases of the day.

It's no use finger-pointing at the parents, and saying they should find someone to mind their kiddies before they come to court. That just ain't going to happen.

As Bazley said, some children are in danger of growing up thinking their address is the courthouse. Little children comforting their mothers while their fathers were sent to jail. Is this what we want in a civilised society? Is it too much to ask that the children can be placed in a safe, private place? We don't visit the sins of the parents on the children.

Surely, with some of the money we're saving with the reforms made to the legal aid service, we can provide a service to children at court by providing a creche service.

At least, in the beginning, a pilot service at one of our busiest District Courts? How about it, Simon Power?

Comments (9)

by Hesiod on April 20, 2011

bring back milk in schools and free apples too.

and stop interfering in the justice industry. how do you think they grow the next generation of clients?

by on April 20, 2011

Providing services for children would seem to be the last thing Simon Power has on his mind if this is anything to go by.

He would probably chuck this in the same group as other "trivial" matters such as where a child goes to school or spends their holidays. 

by Andin on April 21, 2011

"As Bazley said, some children are in danger of growing up thinking their address is the courthouse."

I doubt if that is going to happen, they more than likely will grow up with the resentment their parents feel towards the justice system rubbing off on them.

"Little children comforting their mothers while their fathers were sent to jail. Is this what we want in a civilised society?"

Children can be empathetic for all kinds of reasons. Use of this rhetorical device seems a little OTT. Maybe some thoughts on what a civilised society looks like would be more helpful.

"Is it too much to ask that the children can be placed in a safe, private place? We don't visit the sins of the parents on the children."

A creche is a courthouse is a safe private place? What are they going to live there? Jeez, their parent/s singular or plural just broke the law, a common occurrence these days. Whats with the sins of the parents biz? Children will turn out like their parents in 99% of the time if they are left to their own devices.

There are all sorts of philosophical and pedagogical nooks and crannies along that route, which its not worth getting into in a comment on a blog.

Anyhoo, Hey going to court is a drag and the, get there at 10am and wait till your name is called approach, is just lazy bureaucracy. I can see why its done this way, at the bottom end of the legal system. Cause to personalise it is just too damn hard and justice seems to want to be blind. Sorry you had to wait with the hoi polloi.

by on May 15, 2011

I built the 'bus shelter' at the gates of Mt Crawford prison about 15 years ago, so the visiting families could sit in shelter, while waiting for visiting time.  Generally it was for people who had to struggle with public transport and did not have a dry warm car to sit in.

I was amazed at the attitude, not only of the screws but the head honcho, basically it was let the buggers freeze, and at the time they locked the place up until only about 30 min before visiting time.
The screws and management look at the inmates families with the same contempt as the prisoners.
But then that is public servants for you - as in I'm right Jack.

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