THE FEDERAL COURT has once again replaced the NT Supreme Court as the most costly court per civil case for taxpayers, according to a Productivity Commission’s government services report.
Each case in the Federal Court cost almost $16,767 to finalise in 2004-05, almost 45 per cent more than in the previous financial year.
Net recurrent expenditure per finalisation in the Federal Court had declined in the previous two years from $15,881 per case in 2001-02, to $11, 570 per finalised case in 2004-05.
The NT Supreme Court and the Federal Court have vied with each other for the status of most expensive drain on public coffers in that period. In 2003-04, the NT took the gong at $19,571 per finalisation, up more than 64 per cent on the previous year. This year it is down again, more than 42 per cent, to second most expensive on $11,253 each.
In 2002-03, the Federal Court was the most costly over the NT Supreme Court by just $2,000 per case. In 2001-02, each case finalised in the NT cost nearly $20,000.
The Productivity Commission said it was difficult to compare courts in different jurisdictions as the types of case heard can differ. The Federal Court, for instance, now mostly has fewer, more resource intensive and complicated trials since the Federal Magistrates Court began operating in 2000, increasing the cost per finalisation. At the same time, the Federal Magistrates Court also still draws upon Federal Court resources to function.
Net expenditure per finalisation tends to be higher in the NT in part because it is a small jurisdiction with relatively few cases across which to spread the costs of a fully functioning supreme court. The territory also has higher costs than many jurisdictions associated with supplying court services to a geographically dispersed population.