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Clocktower.Wednesday 4 April 2018 11:20am

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The Otago Legal Issues Centre is demystifying the legal process by teaming up with the Auckland Community Law Centre.

Court processes can be foreign and alienating for many; new animations developed for New Zealand by the University of Otago aim to break down these barriers to justice.

The Otago Legal Issues Centre has teamed up with the Auckland Community Law Centre to develop a series of animated videos explaining common legal terms and situations for the general public.

Legal Issues Centre Professional Practice Fellow, Allie Cunninghame, says research conducted by the Centre has shown people have difficulty accessing information about the process of bringing or responding to a civil dispute.

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Allie Cunninghame, Otago Legal Issues Centre Professional Practice Fellow.

The practice of law, particularly in the courts, also requires an understanding of technical legal language and many unwritten or hard-to-find rules of conduct and procedure.

“These are significant barriers to justice in the civil system. They can leave litigants who do not have a lawyer feeling as though they are at a substantial disadvantage as it is information that lawyers know but is not readily available to members of the public.

“The Ministry of Justice has gone some way to assist unrepresented litigants by providing more information about the court process on their website. These animations offer clear explanations that summarise and supplement the text-based information, making the information more accessible,” Ms Cunninghame says.

The Centre has developed nine videos, including explanations of where to go to get help with a legal dispute, the different ways a person can be represented, and civil legal aid.

Future videos will explain common legal terms, the preparation, filing and serving of civil court case documents, settlement of court cases, and court costs.

“We intend to develop multiple series of public legal education videos that span the length of a civil dispute—from how to initiate a civil proceeding through to what happens when your civil dispute has been decided by a judge.

“We hope that the animations will help to demystify the court process, and to assist the public in understanding some of the steps in civil court disputes, and some of the terminology and rules which are used by the courts.

“We expect that clearer understanding of the court rules may lead to better access to justice and greater efficiency when lay people are representing themselves in court,” she says.

The videos are available on the Legal Issues Centre's YouTube channel:

The first nine videos have been animated by Jacinda Kumar, a recent Media and Communications graduate of the University of Otago. Bayden Harris, a current law and history student, assisted with background research and script writing.

The Centre welcomes feedback from the public via the YouTube channel. This will be taken into account during production on the next series of videos.

For more information, please contact:

Allie Cunninghame
Professional Practice Fellow
Legal Issues Centre
University of Otago

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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