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Witnesses blamed for court backlog

Witnesses blamed for court backlog

A BRISBANE criminal defence lawyer has called for judges to strike out cases where the Crown is not ready to proceed due to the unavailability of witnesses. Jim Coburn of national criminal…

A BRISBANE criminal defence lawyer has called for judges to strike out cases where the Crown is not ready to proceed due to the unavailability of witnesses.

Jim Coburn of national criminal defence firm Ryan and Bosscher Lawyers says witnesses, particularly police witnesses, are holding up the court system, resulting in an increasing backlog of cases.

“The common experience I have in court, and especially the Magistrates Court, is adjournments are being sought by the prosecution in relation to arresting officers or significant witnesses due to fact they are overseas, or not at work for some other excuse which shows they aren’t prepared to be inconvenienced by coming to court,” Coburn says.

Coburn suggests that the availability of witnesses should be considered when matters are listed for hearing, to help ensure witnesses turn up to court.

“When we list matters for hearing it’s done without witness availability details and when we get to trial we are then told the witness has other plans that can’t be avoided. If we have an initial indication from them as to when they are available we could get a court listing from there,” Coburn says.

“It really should be a case of you’re ready on the day or suffer the consequences and that should apply across the board.”

Queensland’s courts have been attracting media scrutiny recently due to a large backlog of cases. Recent publicity has focussed on the need for more judicial officers. Coburn agrees that more judges and magistrates should be appointed in the particular areas of the law where cases are getting held up.

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