Part 4 - Ministry of Justice: Supporting the management of court workloads

Public entities' progress in implementing the Auditor-General's recommendations.

In our performance audit, we focused on the work that the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) does to support the District Courts and High Court in managing criminal and civil workloads. In particular, we examined work the Ministry is carrying out to help the courts to deal with continuing growth in the number of new cases before the courts.

The scope of our performance audit

We looked at whether the Ministry was working effectively with other court participants to manage court workloads and plan for managing future court workloads.

Our findings and recommendation

We found that the Ministry was well positioned to further develop and provide support for measures designed to deal with growing court workloads. The Ministry's plans for helping to manage growing court workloads involved a series of projects expected to improve the efficiency of the courts. The Ministry was also aware that more judges, courtrooms, and registry staff would probably be needed.

All the projects that the Ministry had under way to address court workloads involved multiple members of the sector. All the members of the justice sector we spoke to said that they worked regularly and closely with the Ministry on relevant projects. The Ministry cannot carry out these projects on its own, so working collaboratively with other members of the sector is critical for the projects to proceed.

We looked at the information the Ministry shared with other members of the justice sector, select committees, and Ministers. It aligned well with the Ministry's internal information, and we considered that the Ministry collected an appropriate range of performance information about the courts.

We found small regional differences in how courts function. These differences reflect differences in judicial procedure, workloads, the physical layouts of courts, and pilots that are often carried out locally. We did not have any concerns about regional differences, but we saw an opportunity to better identify and share information about better practice with all courts.

Our report made a single recommendation – that the Ministry place greater emphasis on collecting and sharing better practice information throughout all courts. The Ministry supported this recommendation.

The Ministry of Justice's response to our findings and recommendation

Since our audit, the Ministry has updated the approach it uses to review the performance of courts. This approach included introducing a new international framework for reviewing court performance. The Ministry has begun to conduct court reviews using the new approach.

The Ministry has also introduced new tools for managers to allow them to better compare performance across courts. To increase the effect of the court reviews and promote increased sharing of better practice, the Ministry has begun to publish its reviews of court performance on its intranet to allow all court staff to view the reports. It has also placed more emphasis on following up on its court reviews.

We consider that the Ministry has implemented our recommendation, but also expect it to continue to improve how it shares better practice, as part of its continual improvement process.

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