MOJ job cuts must not be operational

by Jake Quinn

The Ministry of Justice is set to lose 88 jobs from its Courts and Collections unit. The proposal includes 51 new positions within the Ministry leaving a net 37 job losses. I have no problem, in principle, with reducing the size of MOJ, perhaps those responsible for the Electoral Finance Act could volunteer their services for redundancy. However, the Justice Ministry would be foolish to make the reductions from within its Operations unit. Why? Because Courts are already well understaffed, just ask any judge.

Cutting ‘front line staff’ runs counter to the National government’s plan of not cutting ‘front line staff’ from the public service. Courts and Collections are front line. We’re talking about core staff here; court takers, security guards, bailiffs, etc. To make matters worse, these people are relatively low paid compared to their ‘Senior Policy Analyst’ and ‘Senior Planning Advisor’ colleagues at head office in Wellington.

Furthermore, we have the well documented problem of court waiting times or ‘delay’. There are numerous factors that contribute to this phenomena, for instance; court cases are getting more complicated, more scientific evidence needs more time and more technology to analyse, and with more Police on the streets, more crimes are being solved, more charges are being laid and more offenders end up in Court.  Good.

But all this means we need more court staff not less. Fortunately there has been growth in both the number of judges and court room facilities. The last government, enjoying year on year of green global economic pastures, embarked on an ambitious programme of court building and refurbishment putting something like 20+ new court buildings into play across NZ. So we have some 21st century facilities, now we just need more staff to operate them.