Money for an extra eight magistrates in NSW has been committed by the government in its 2021-22 state budget.
Law Society president Juliana Warner said that without funding for the appointment of at least another 10 judicial officers to service the needs of the busiest courts, matters were being dealt with in increasingly pressured settings. This in turn would lead to negative flow-on effects for victims, witnesses, accused people and members of the public, Ms Warner said.
On Monday NSW Attorney General (AG) Mark Speakman released a statement promising an additional eight magistrates would be appointed as part of a $56.1 million justice package for NSW over the next four years.
“The extra magistrates will help to reduce the trauma of waiting for hearing dates and attending court on victims, witnesses and families. We’re committed to easing that burden felt particularly by those involved in domestic violence cases,” Speakman said.
Despite the budget commitment for extra magistrates being two short of the number identified by the NSW Law Society, the AG said the added support would help to deliver ‘more efficient justice’ for the state’s metropolitan and regional areas.
NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet said that as that state continued to grow, it was important that the infrastructure of the local court system was equipped to meet the ‘challenges of the future’.
In NSW the local court finalises 96% of all criminal cases across 139 court venues.
According to the government, this latest budget announcement complements more than $150 million already committed to digitally transform NSW courts and upgrade regional and metropolitan courthouses in 2020.
The state’s chief magistrate, Judge Graeme Henson, also welcomed news about the additional magistrates, saying that the boost would improve local court efficiencies.
“Increased access to timely justice will benefit all court users and indeed the whole community,” Judge Henson said.
The $56.1 million budget justice package will also go towards increasing the number of prosecutors and Legal Aid lawyers who appear in NSW local court proceedings; and allow a coronial case management unit (CCMU) trial to become permanent.
“Led by coroners, the unit is a successful collaboration between police, forensic pathologists, medical specialists and counsellors,” Speakman added.
“The CCMU helps ensure grieving families can lay their loved ones to rest sooner and receive better and more timely information.”