The New South Wales Bar Association says a new case management approach will fail to make a significant impact in reducing the state’s District Court backlog.
The NSW Bar Association has responded to a report released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) regarding the special “Rolling List Court” case management approach in the NSW District Court.
The association said that the arrangement will fail in combatting the severe backlog currently being seen in the District Court and noted the necessity for greater resources.
“The Rolling List initiative is of limited application as it only applies to publicly funded cases involving in-house legal aid and prosecution by the NSW DPP. Accused persons who do not qualify for legal aid or who choose to pay for private representation are excluded from the scheme,” the NSW Bar Association said in a statement.
“The scheme also excludes private practitioners who appear for clients on legal aid. This means that the Rolling List only applies to a small number of cases that the court deals with.”
President of the NSW Bar Association Arthur Moses SC added: “With the criminal justice system near breaking point due to delays, the District Court needs more than a new case management approach to reduce the backlog”.
“It requires more resources and funding for the Legal Aid Commission and the courts so that people are adequately represented by senior lawyers at all stages of the criminal justice process and the courts are sufficiently resourced to deal with the workload,” he said.
Mr Moses SC noted that the District Court criminal caseload currently has over 2,000 criminal trials outstanding, as well as nearly 1,200 sentencing matters. In addition, he said the average delay between committal for trial and finalisation is 378 days, with the average delay between arrest and trail finalisation over two years.
“Putting to one side the impact on the accused who may be on remand during this period, these delays cause unnecessary stress to victims and witnesses who are already suffering from the effects of trauma,” Mr Moses SC explained.
“It is proper legal aid funding that will result in a significant enhancement to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system as those involved in the system will be able to be represented by experienced counsel who understand how the criminal justice system works and are able to provide assistance to the court.
“It is also crystal clear that the District Court also needs more judges as that court is facing a tsunami of cases and has a crushing workload. It is these measures that will reduce delays and in the long term save the community money rather than trial case management procedures that only apply to a fraction of persons facing charges.”