ON TWO measures of access to justice, the Northern Territory Supreme Court had one of the highest scores of the states and territories, according to a Productivity Commission’s report into government services for the last financial year.
The NT had one of the lowest fees per lodgement in the country and the most judicial officers per 100,000 population, but this was in part due to high public funding for that court.
The Commission’s report said fees paid per case lodgement and the number of judicial officers available to give enforceable orders were the only two nationally comparable measures of the relative effectiveness and accessibility of the courts across Australia.
There were 11.1 judicial officers — which includes judges and any other officers who make enforceable orders — per 100,000 people in the NT in 2004-05, compared with the lowest number of 0.7 for the federal courts and 3.3 per 100,000 in Queensland.
On average, the NT Supreme Court charged only $485 per lodgement of application, although Queensland and Tasmania were cheaper still on $446 and $385 respectively.
The Federal Court scored low on both counts, recording only 0.3 judicial officers per 100,000 people in the country and the third highest lodgement fee of $1,108.
Of the states, the supreme courts in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia had the highest average fees in the country, all above $1,000 per lodgement.
NSW was the most expensive, however NSW figures are inflated as corporations there are charged twice as much as individuals. NSW was followed by Victoria, the Federal Court and WA.
However, the states in general recover far more of their funding in court fees than the federal or NT courts. In the NSW Supreme Court, 32.8 per cent of civil court fees went towards court costs, compared to only 3.5 per cent of court fees in the NT.
Taxpayers paid much of the costs of that court, with the real net recurrent funding at $11,253 per finalisation — the second highest after the Federal Court.
While it had high fees, however, the Western Australian Supreme Court had the second highest ratio (6.1) of judicial officers per head of population.
Queensland had one of the lowest lodgement fees of the superior courts, but had the second lowest number of judicial officers per 100,000 people in the state.