Anyone unfortunate enough to be acquainted with court processes in the Macarthur district will know that accessing justice takes, for the most part, a long, long time.
If listed matters or active cases are adjourned for any reason, it’s likely the new court date, even for relatively minor traffic offences handled by the Local Court, will be months down the track.
It’s much worse if the case is to be heard in the District Court where matters typically require initial mentions, a committal hearing, multiple sitting days, a jury verdict and sentencing submissions. Finalisation of cases in Campbelltown District Court can now take years.
Such delays are commonplace not because our court staff and judicial officers are incompetent or inefficient, but because court operations locally are “choking” and simply unable to cope with the demands and extra work that comes with rapid unprecedented population growth.
Last year, then Law Society president Doug Humphries said nowhere in NSW needed improved court facilities more than the Macarthur region.
NSW attorney general Mark Speakman appeared to agree, telling the Advertiser in October that the establishment of a multi-jurisdictional justice precinct in Macarthur was his “number one priority”.
Six months on however and there’s been no announcements from the Justice Department about any initiative to help reduce the court case backlog in Macarthur, let alone a commitment to create a purpose-built precinct that would provide local courts, district courts, family court, and emergency services in one place.
That commitment is now overdue.
The Macarthur district population has exploded in recent years. Official figures show the region today is home to 300,000 people, with that figure expected to double to 600,000 by 2036.
Justice infrastructure provision is just as vital as transport, education and health planning but has unfortunately been ignored.
An alliance of local councils, legal fraternity members, emergency service personnel and other community organisation leaders has just formed in a bid to force action on the issue.
Members will use their collective clout to let both major political parties know this is a hot button issue in the south-west ahead of the state election on March 23.
This alliance has the support and backing of The Advertiser.
Premier Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Daley, consider yourselves on notice.
What plans do you have to improve justice infrastructure in Macarthur, how much will you provide for this infrastructure and when will it be provided?