Government commits $20m to ease ‘crushing workload’ in courts
The NSW State Government has announced a $20 million increase in funding to address the backlog of criminal trials in the NSW District Court.
The decision was welcomed by Noel Hutley SC (pictured), the NSW Bar Association president, who said the court’s resources have been “stretched beyond capacity”.
The package aims to reduce the case backlog by 600 criminal trials over the next two years. The NSW District Court had a backlog of 2,055 criminal cases as of September this year.
The number of days taken for a matter to be finalised increased 28 per cent between 2007 and 2014 to an average of 358 days.
The package takes a number of approaches including: additional sittings; encouraging early guilty pleas; pre-trial conferencing for long trials; and appointing additional judges and public defenders.
The increase in police funding and, thus, the number of arrests, has resulted in a “crushing workload for judges, the DPP and defence counsel”, according to the NSW Bar.
Mr Hutley said the government’s package is a “step in the right direction” and will go some way towards alleviating pressures in the short term.
“However, significant funding is required to clear the disturbing backlog, which impacts not only on accused persons, but also victims of crime and potential witnesses,” he said.