With the 2018 Victorian state election just around the corner, the LIV has called on all parties to commit to improving metropolitan and regional legal infrastructure.
A statement from the organisation has called for improved court infrastructure in regional areas, more resources for magistrates, expanded legal assistance programs and court services and consultation with the profession on planning future legal infrastructure frameworks.
Such requests include improved accessibility and diversity support, more access to training for magistrates, the expanding of specialised court jurisdictions such as drug and Koori courts, the establishment of a “blueprint for justice” to accommodate the state’s growing population and increased specialist court availability across all Magistrates’ Courts to prevent “postcode injustice”.
LIV says “underresourcing of courts has resulted in continued delays, placed increased pressure on judges, magistrates, court staff and lawyers, and contributed significantly to prison overcrowding in Victoria.”
Highlighting the ageing court infrastructure in rural, regional and remote areas which has resulted in East Gippsland’s Sale County Court no longer being able to sit, the LIV also called out the current video link court appearance system as being “insufficient and inadequate”.
It compared use of the video link system to a prison video-link hubs, “which allow multiple prisoners to engage with lawyers efficiently and permit greater access to justice.”
LIV president Belinda Wilson said more funding is needed “to address the disproportionate legal need” of rural, regional and remote courts, which require “specialised services to overcome the geographic, linguistic and financial barriers often facing the community.”
She said that the LIV does welcome “the state government’s commitment to investing $152.4 million to rebuild the Bendigo Law Courts and provide modern, purpose-built facilities to replace an aging and no longer fit-for-purpose Bendigo court.”
“The LIV will continue to lobby for the creation of dedicated bail and remand courts and advocate for additional funding to support more court staff,” she continued.