The cogs of justice will turn faster in the new financial year, the state government has promised, as it pledges funding for eight new Local Court magistrates in NSW.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has announced that the 2021-22 Budget will invest $56.1 million over the next four years to appoint eight extra magistrates and boost resources for prosecutors and Legal Aid. This will take the number of Local Court magistrates in NSW to a record high of 149.
The Law Society of NSW last month welcomed the news. President of the Law Society of NSW Juliana Warner said she had been calling on the Attorney General to provide additional magistrates for the state’s Coroner’s Court, Sydney’s Downing Centre and Local Courts at Albury, Coffs Harbour, the Central West, Illawarra, and Wagga Wagga.
“The current workload of magistrates is ferocious – the Local Court deals with more than 94 per cent of all criminal prosecutions and almost all domestic and family violence matters in NSW,” President Warner said.
“The shortfall in magistrates in the Local Courts during the past three years placed an enormous strain on the workload of our judiciary and court staff, impacting on everyone who came into contact with our courts.
“The Attorney-General’s announcement brings in some much-needed resources to reduce the delays in the Local Court and is welcomed by the state’s solicitors, especially those in our regions.”
Speakman said the extra magistrates would reduce the wait time and trauma for victims, witnesses and families facing lengthy court delays. He said the government was “committed to easing that burden felt particularly by those involved in domestic violence cases” and noted the increase in magistrates would enable the Coronial Case Management Unit (CCMU) pilot to become permanent.
“The CCMU helps ensure grieving families can lay their loved ones to rest sooner and receive better and more timely information. Led by coroners, the unit is a successful collaboration between police, forensic pathologists, medical specialists and counsellors,” Speakman said.