NSW courts ‘drowning’ in thousands of cases
POLICE in NSW are doing their job so well the courts can't keep up, lawyers have warned.
As police packed an unprecedented 150,000 new defendants into the state's courts last year, victims and witnesses are being lost in the system because it takes so long for cases to get to trial, NSW Law Society president Doug Humphries said.
With as long as two years to get from a first appearance to finalising the case in the District Court, victims and witnesses were giving up, moving house or going overseas.
"It makes it that much harder to get a conviction no matter how good the case is," Mr Humphries said.
"Delays impact on the quality of evidence … as witnesses' memories fade, or witnesses become incompetent or unavailable to give evidence."
He said the two-year backlog had turned the state's District Court into the country's slowest court and was a result of giving police more money to make arrests but forgetting about the other end of the justice system.
"The downstream effects of more arrests are that more accused are being brought before the courts," Mr Humphries said.
"The courts are drowning."
He was speaking after a private crisis meeting this month between judges, police and prosecutors and called urgently for funding to employ more District Court judges.
Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show crime rates have fallen but better technology means police are catching more crooks with 149,174 persons of interest put before the courts last year compared with 122,180 in 2012.
BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn said police were more efficient in catching thieves and other offenders.
"Take burglary, an offence that has dropped through the floor but the arrest rate has risen because police are using DNA databases to catch the thieves," Dr Weatherburn said.
Mr Humphries has appealed to Premier Gladys Berejiklian for more judges after he was told that even with an extra 10 to 15 judges, it would take five years to get on top of the backlog.