The NSW Government has announced a $13.2 million plan to integrate the three existing premises of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) into one location as part of its 2009/2010 budget announcement.
The move responds to the Auditor-General's recommendation that a "cradle-to-grave" approach be taken to allow crown prosecutors and solicitors to work together for the duration of a case.
"Bringing the staff together under one roof will integrate the ODPP's crown prosecutors with solicitors and support staff and help make the office run more effectively and efficiently," Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said.
The reaction of the President of the Law Society of NSW, Joe Catanzariti, to the integration plan was lukewarm, as he emphasised the need for additional staffing and funding for the ODPP.
"In the future we would like to see more initiatives and funding aimed at increasing staffing at the ODPP. But we are pleased that the ODPP will be brought under the one roof if it means the office will run more effectively and efficiently," Catanzariti said.
Catanzariti was more upbeat about the Government's plans to spend $12.6 million on upgrading court facilities around NSW.
"The Law Society is constantly advocating the importance of upgrading court facilities so that our courts are equipped with the latest cutting-edge services that will meet the needs of the community, particularly where disability access is concerned."
Some of the works include $1.8 million for the upgrade of the Law Courts Building in Queen's Square to expatiate large civil Supreme Court matters.
However, the bulk of the funds allocated to the courts were for maintenance work. The Central Local Court was given $600,000 to fix the courthouse roof and improve holding cells and security. The Lismore Courthouse received $500,000 to install a new lift, improve disability access and install new toilets. At The Downing Centre, $400,000 will be spent to replace the existing fire sprinkler system, $200,000 to upgrade the air conditioning system and $150,000 to upgrade secure judge lifts.
Funds were also allocated to justice initiatives such as the Legal eServices program, the rollout of the Remote Witness Program and $2.3 million for child protection including $2.1 million for alternative dispute resolution in the Children's Court and $165,000 for night patrols in remote Aboriginal communities.
- Laura MacIntyre