In an exclusive interview, Justice Derek Price AM, the Chief Judge of the District Court of NSW, calls for an overhaul in the way solicitors and prosecutors work in criminal trials.
The workload of the District Court has increased immensely in the past four years. In fact, the criminal caseload has risen by 42 per cent since 2014. The good news is that the court has been able to increase its disposals – that is, the trials that are completed – by about 51 per cent over the same period. However, we are left with a very large caseload and the incoming work is not decreasing. We are becoming more efficient, but need to do more.
Length and complexity of trials
A major concern is the increasing complexity of the work and length of trials. The Downing Centre alone has close to 100 trials which are estimated to last more than four weeks. We have some trials that are estimated to take up to a year. One of the consequences of extra funding to police is that people are being charged with more serious criminal offences. There has been a significant increase in complex drug-related offences involving multiple accused. In addition there are a large number of child sexual assault cases, which I anticipate will increase as a result of the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.