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NSW criminal courts handed new powers

NSW criminal courts handed new powers

New South Wales judges will be able to impose a tight rein on lawyers and force intensive pre-trial conferences following the release of a landmark report from within the senior ranks of the justice system.

New South Wales judges will be able to impose a tight rein on lawyers and force intensive pre-trial conferences following the release of a landmark report from within the senior ranks of the justice system. 

The state government on Friday responded to a 105-page report by promising to amend legislation to reduce the length of criminal trials. 

The comprehensive report was released by the Trial Efficiency Working Group, chaired by Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan and comprising three Supreme Court judges, the NSW Senior Crown Prosecutor, the Bar Association, and the director of the Attorney General's Department, among others. 

The state’s Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said more can be done to reduce avoidable delays, “which place significant burden on the justice system and the taxpayer”. 

The report makes 17 recommendations and says there needs to be “a significant cultural change from the legal profession” for them to work. 

Under the new measures, courts will be handed the power to order parties to meet before trial and indentify the key issues for determination. 

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 will be introduced this Parliamentary session as a result of the newly released report. 

Courts would be able to more easily order the intensive pre-trial case management and disclosure of the facts and matters in dispute.

“These amendments will relax the requirements of the Evidence Act and dispense with formal proOf requirements where the issues aren’t in dispute,” Hatzistergos said. 

The A-G said the amendments are aimed at reducing the burden on juries, relieving the anguish for victims, as well as cutting costs to the court system and the parties. 

The report recommends requiring prosecution and defence to exchange information immediately following committal, and giving the court the power to order the partners to identify the issues for determination at trial. 

The possibility of judges acting alone in long trials is also raised. “The question of whether juries at least as currently constituted, remain appropriate for all criminal trials is a matter which will undoubtedly require consideration, probably in the near future,” the report says.



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