Interpreters, language & disability access

If you have trouble understanding English you can still call us or visit a court and we’ll find an interpreter to help you.

Tell the court if you need an interpreter

Court work is mostly done in English.

If you come to the court and need to speak to staff at the counter, and you can’t communicate fluently  in English or understand what the person is saying, staff can contact a telephone based interpreter to make it easier for you to talk to us. If you might find it hard to follow what people are saying in the courtroom, or to speak English, the court can arrange for an interpreter to sit beside you and translate what you say in your own language into English, and translate what other people say into your language.

You’ll need to tell the court at least 10 working days before you need to be there. This will give the court time to get an interpreter.

Fill in this form and give it to the court:

Request for an interpreter [PDF, 161 KB]

You can also call 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) or you can visit your local court. Have your case reference number handy when you talk to us.

Find a court

Te Reo Māori & New Zealand Sign Language

You have the right to speak te reo Māori or use New Zealand Sign Language in court. It’s free if the court arranges an interpreter for you to do this.

Speak te reo Māori

You’ll need to fill in a form and give it to the court and the other people in your case at least 10 working days before you need to be at court. This gives the court time to get an interpreter.

Fill in this form:

Notice of intention to speak Māori [PDF, 233 KB]

Use New Zealand Sign Language

You’ll need to tell the court at least 10 working days before you need to be there. This will give them time to get an interpreter. To arrange an interpreter, contact the court in person, by phone or by email.

Disability access & help

If you’re deaf, hearing impaired, blind and/or speech impaired you can call us through NZ Relay.

If you’re visiting a court and you have a disability, some ways the court may be able to help you include:

  • provide documents in other formats (such as Braille or bigger type) if you have a vision problem
  • use an accessible court room if you have a mobility problem
  • give you a seat near the witness or judge or get sound reinforcement if you have a hearing problem
  • serve you in a quiet place if you have a hearing problem or if you want to bring a person to sign for you
  • go through the information more fully and in plain language if you have an intellectual disability or a problem with attention, memory or decision-making.

You’ll need to tell the court at least 5 working days before you need to be there. This will give them time to get the help you need.

Communication assistance 

Communication assistance may be available if: 

  • you or someone you know has been charged with an offence, or will be giving evidence as a witness, and 
  • may need help to understand what is happening in court, respond to questions or give evidence. 

The judge can direct communication assistance to help defendants understand court proceedings, and defendants and witnesses give evidence to the best of their ability.

Anyone who is working with or supporting a defendant or witness during their case can help to identify that they may need communication assistance. Many people who use communication assistance have (or are suspected to have) an intellectual or learning disability, autism or other neurodiversity, brain injury, or under-developed language or communication skills. The service is also available for defendants and witnesses experiencing mental distress, and for children.

If you think a defendant may need communication assistance, you should let their lawyer know.  If a witness may need communication assistance, tell the police officer in charge of the case.  The defence lawyer or police officer in charge will fill in an application form [PDF, 1.4 MB] and give it to the court. 

If a judge decides that communication assistance should be used, a communication assistant (who is a language and communication specialist) will assess the participant’s communication abilities.  The communication assistant will write a report that tells the court how it can help the participant communicate during the court proceedings.  The communication assistant may also:

  • work with the lawyers to prepare questions for court that they will be able to understand and answer
  • prepare easy to read documents or visual aids to assist their understanding 
  • check that they can understand what is happening in court and tell the judge if they need a break or other help. 

Communication assistance is funded by the Ministry of Justice and there is no cost to participants or their whānau. 

Making a complaint about communication assistance 

If you are unhappy or concerned about how well communication assistance was delivered or how a Communication Assistant behaved while providing the service, you can make a complaint. 

Complaints are treated respectfully through a fair and transparent process. 

Find out more about how to make a complaint about communication assistance here: 

Making a complaint about communication assistance  [PDF, 195 KB]


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