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Te Heuheu responds to questions from Fair Go

Published: 3:17PM Thursday June 17, 2010 Source: Fair Go

Minister For Courts, Hon Georgina te Heuheu,
Responses to questions from TVNZ Fair Go.

18 May 2010

1. Why does the Courts system not provide more support, in terms of finding information on respondents, to those who are successful before the Disputes

" Civil debts are debts between private parties - not enforcement sentences for breaking the law.

" The responsibility for collecting the payment lies with the person who is owed the money.

" The Court cannot act without instructions because the debt is between private parties.

" In most cases the debt will be paid without the Court's knowledge.

2. Does the Minister agree that the onus is unreasonably heavily placed upon applicants to provide information about respondents, including address, and - in particular - identification of assets appropriate for seizure?

" Civil debts are between private parties and in most cases are paid without the Court's knowledge.

" The Court can assist the creditor when asked - but as the debt is between private parties the Court cannot act without instructions.

" The Court takes enforcement action when instructed, such as putting an attachment order on someone's wages to deduct the money owed.

3. If yes, what steps does the Minister suggest might assist applicants?

" The Courts and Criminal Matters Bill (CCMB) was recently introduced to parliament.

" The CCMB will make it easier and less expensive for civil debts to be settled.

" For example, it will be easier to have a portion of a debt deducted from someone's wages, we will be removing some of the fees involved and, in many cases, people will be able to deal with the Court by phone or by email rather than having to visit the courthouse.

4. Information to applicants specifically states "The Court will not trace the person for you."  Why not?

" The Court will not proactively trace civil debtors because the debt is between private parties and in many cases may have already been paid.

" Creditors can make an Official Information Act request for the Court (or any Government Department) to search its records for their debtor's address.

" The Court does not supply the creditor with the new address.  However, the creditor is advised that an address has been located and can instruct the Court to take further action.  For example, the creditor might ask that the court serve a summons on the debtor at the newly found address.

5. Does the Minister agree that Bailiff visits are "costly and can only provide the incentive to take action to a small number"?

" Bailiff visits do incur a cost.  However, in some instances they are the appropriate action to take.  Bailiffs execute civil enforcement warrants out in the community most days on instruction from civil creditors

" The decision to instruct the Court to seize a civil debtor's property is made by the creditor.

6. If yes, what alternative can the Minister propose to effect better collection of settlements ordered by the Disputes Tribunal?

" The CCMB will make civil processes cheaper, simpler and quicker for civil creditors and debtors.

" The Bill will streamline processes and make it much easier to get an attachment order put on someone's wages.

7. Will the Minister consider extending the Credit Reporting Initiative in the Courts & Criminal Matters Bill, currently before the House, to include unresolved settlements ordered by the Disputes Tribunal?

" The rules are very clear about what kind of debt can be put on credit rating lists.

" Defaults on loans of money, hire purchase agreements and judgments by the District or High Court can all go on credit ratings lists.

" Disputes Tribunal debt however cannot be placed on credit reporting lists.

8. If not, why not?

" The Disputes Tribunal is different from a formal Court - it is informal (no lawyers are involved) and private (hearings are not open to the public).

" In most cases debt is paid without the Court's knowledge.

" Including Disputes Tribunal debt on credit listing reports risks affecting a person's mortgage, employment prospects or existing loan agreements for a debt that they may have already paid, or not been aware of and is often a debt between private parties.

9. What steps will the Minster take to ensure fuller and more widely available publication of Disputes Tribunal decisions?  I note this new function available on the Courts website:

" As you note, some Disputes Tribunal decisions are available online via the Disputes Tribunal website or the New Zealand Legal Information Institute website,  These date back to 2007.

" The cases that are published are those that have been identified by Disputes Tribunal Referees as being of particular public interest.  As Disputes Tribunal hearings are private, any identifying information of parties to the hearings is removed by the Principal Disputes Referee prior to publication online.

" There are no plans to increase publication of Disputes Tribunal decisions at this stage, but the current publication process ensures that decisions that may be of interest to the public, on matters of law, are available.



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