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Local Court of NSW’s shift towards therapeutic justice has been welcomed by the Law Society of NSW as a potential game changer.

The Local Court of NSW Strategy Plan 2023-26, Australia’s “busiest court”, acknowledged the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the legal system is directly related to both historical and ongoing experiences of trauma, institutionalisation, and colonisation.

On par with the Law Society President Cassandra Banks’ Priority for 2023 to “advocate for increased diversion for vulnerable cohorts in the criminal justice system”, the Court’s commitment to supporting programs that contribute to ‘closing the gap’, includes expanding Circle Sentencing to an additional eight locations. 

“As an alternative sentencing tool for magistrates”, the Court’s Plan states, “Circle Sentencing promotes the sharing of responsibility between the community and the criminal justice system.”

In its 2023 Election Platform, the Law Society highlighted the need to commit to expanding specialist Indigenous courts, including the Walama List in the District Court, the Youth Koori Court and the Indigenous care list in the Children’s Court.

“Innovative solutions are needed to address the underlying causes of Indigenous offending.” the 2023 Election Platform affirms. “Law Society supports targeted initiatives to improve outcomes for Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. This includes the establishment and expansion of specialised Indigenous courts.”

The Law Society also supports the Local Court’s inclusion of improved physical and digital infrastructure, a measure addressed in the Law Society’s “A fair post-COVID justice system” research summary report, published in January 2022.

The Local Court mentions the benefits of remote appearances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, including improved efficiency and reduced demand for physical space. The Plan calls for further technological investment to “improve its capability and reliability.”

In a statement, the Law Society said it looks forward to working with the Local Court to improve efficiency and access to justice in this busy jurisdiction and will also be informed by the work of its expert Policy and Practice Committees.