"You are endangering everybody about you and your families as well"
The New Zealand Bar Association (NZBA) has made an urgent plea to the public after reports that “large numbers of people” are attending some courts on the first day of the alert level 4 lockdown.
“Unless you are required to be in a court, stay away. You are endangering everybody about you and your families as well,” said Kate Davenport QC, NZBA president. “If you are a defendant, do not bring a large support group. You are only exposing them and everyone else to significant danger. Your lawyer is there to support you.”
New Zealand has raised its alert level for the coronavirus pandemic to level four, meaning only essential services are to continue.
The NZBA statement comes after Dame Helen Winkelmann announced that members of the public are to be barred from courthouses if their presence is not required for proceedings. This means that only defendants, their lawyers, prosecutors, and officers of the court should be in courthouses. Supporters will not be allowed to enter courthouses unless they have prior permission from the presiding judge.
The NZBA president said that for people required to be in courts, they should maintain at least two metres of physical distance to another person and follow the government’s recommendations on hygiene.
She said that people who need to be in court but are feeling unwell should let their lawyer or the court know in advance so that they can be excused. Check with lawyers or the court if unsure whether presence is needed in the courts, the NZBA said.
“These are difficult times and obviously it will require us all to be flexible as we find our way through the complications that COVID-19 has imposed on our lives. But it’s important to do exactly what the government has asked us to do and stay at home. The longer we fail to comply with these directives, the longer this illness will go on and the more lives it will claim,” Davenport said.