Coffs harbour court house.. 27 FEB 2018
Coffs harbour court house.. 27 FEB 2018 TREVOR VEALE

Victims are suffering in face of massive court backlogs

FROM the day of arrest it takes almost a massive 700 days on average for a victim to see justice served, with District Courts particularly in regional areas currently facing lengthy backlogs.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman visited Coffs Harbour today to announce a permanent, full-time District Court judge will be appointed to the local courthouse in a bid to remedy the long waiting times.

Mr Speakman attributed the issue of extensive court delays to an increasing number of arrests being made across the state.

He said it would be the first time Coffs Harbour has ever had a resident judge.

"Crime is going down in NSW across most categories but it's a paradox that court delays are going up because police have been so good at catching criminals and investigating crime. The courts have been busier than ever," he said.

"We've announced seven extra District Court judges in NSW... it's important those judges come to regional areas like Coffs Harbour where we've seen significant delays."

In 2018, the District Court in Coffs Harbour sat for 30 weeks, and is expected to sit for 40 weeks this year. There are 29 trials currently pending.

The appointment comes as part of a $150m package to fund seven additional judicial officers, taking the number of full-time District Court judges across the state to a record high of 75.

Chief Judge, the Honourable Justice Derek Michael Price AM will call for expressions of interest later on in the year with the appointee expected to begin in Coffs Harbour in early 2020.

Mr Speakman added Justice Price will continue to monitor the workload in Coffs Harbour this year to determine if extra sittings are necessary, and a relieving judge would preside at these hearings.

"Justice delayed is justice denied... This is about fairness to victims, witnesses, police and the accused," Mr Speakman said.

Last year an initiative to drive down waiting times was introduced by the State Government, where those who are going to plead guilty are encouraged to do so at the earliest available opportunity.

Mr Speakman said about 30 per cent of accused plead guilty, but 25 per cent leave it as late as the day of the trial because they are still entitled to a 25 per cent discount on their sentence.

This has since been changed, so that the discount gradually reduces to 5 per cent the longer a guilty plea is not entered.

Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser joined Mr Speakman to announce the new judge today.

"It will mean more sitting than ever before and faster access to justice for victims and their families," he said.



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