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Budget boost for NSW justice sector

Budget boost for NSW justice sector

More than $39 million will flow into the NSW justice sector, according to the state’s 2016-17 budget delivered on Tuesday.

Following the NSW budget announcement on Tuesday, NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton has said over $39 million will go to the state’s justice sector to "make justice faster, fairer and more accessible".

Further investment in Legal Aid, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and a range of initiatives was cited by the Attorney-General "to help reduce the criminal case backlog, such as targeted trial callovers to bring parties together to resolve matters earlier, and initial plea discussions to identify early guilty pleas".

However, budget estimates papers reveal that NSW Legal Aid will suffer cuts.

According to budget estimates, the Legal Aid Commission of NSW will receive a total of $278.4 million for expenses between 2016-17, a reduction of two per cent since 2014-15.

Legal Aid’s civil law services division has been cut by $1.5 million, reducing its allocation to $36.7 million. Money for the state’s criminal law services division has dropped by $3.6 million since last year to $124.7 million.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions receives more money in the budget with an extra $9.7 million, totalling $136.7 million for 2016-17.

The Judicial Commission of NSW, Crown Solicitors Office, and NSW Crime Commission have also received funding boosts, with allocation increases ranging from 11.8 per cent to 4.8 per cent respectively.

According to the Attorney-General, $39 million for the NSW justice sector over two years is part of a larger investment by the state government for systemic reforms that aim to alleviate the courts. It is also hoped the money will tackle a backlog in the District Court.

Some of the money will allow for two new public defenders and three additional District Court judges, one who will sit in Wagga Wagga. 

"The NSW government is continuing to work closely with the District Court to reduce the criminal caseload and deliver fast, fair and accessible justice right across NSW," Ms Upton said.

"This investment will see a full-time permanent District Court judge in Wagga Wagga, which is great news for the Wagga community and regional justice services," Ms Upton added.

The longer term state package is an investment of $570 million over four years that will support comprehensive reform of the NSW justice system, the Attorney-General said.

The latest NSW budget has promised a $3.7 billion surplus, making the NSW economy the strongest above the other Australian states and territories.

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