An alliance of local councils, law societies, emergency service representatives and other community organisations have demanded the major political parties commit to the provision of a multi-jurisdictional justice precinct in Macarthur or Liverpool ahead of the March 23 election.
All these groups believe it is vital that a legal precinct – which would bring together local courts, district courts, family court, emergency services and more in one place – is established to streamline the justice process. They are seeking a $300-$500 million government promise to make that happen as soon as possible.
NSW Law Society president Elizabeth Espinosa said there was already a massive wait for matters like Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) and the ballooning population would only make that worse if steps weren’t taken to ease the backlog.
“At the moment, AVOs in south-west courts can take up to 18 months to process,” she said. “Where in the Downing Centre, for example, it could be actioned within three months.
“This is not good enough, and I am a firm believer that justice delayed is justice denied.”
Ms Espinosa encouraged all locals who felt strongly about the need for a justice precinct in Macarthur or beyond to contact their local MPs and election candidates.
NSW Police Association secretary Pat Gooley said it was important that any justice precinct be “co-located” with emergency services like police.
“With suburban courts as they are at the moment, you have officers waiting around all day for a mention that will later be adjourned – it moves very slowly,” he said.
“But if we had all the different courts together, as soon as a magistrate became available you could get things moving.
“And if the police station is co-located, then officers don’t need to spend time ferrying prisoners from the station to court.”
Mr Gooley said in addition to moving the justice process along more swiftly, a justice precinct would provide jobs for the blossoming Macarthur population.
Fellow justice precinct supporter Peter Sidgreaves is backing the campaign in his capacity as Camden mayor, Liberal candidate for the Camden state seat and director of the Camden Region Economic Taskforce.
Cr Sidgreaves said he saw the push for a justice precinct as a five-10 year plan and not something that would happen overnight.
“If I’m lucky enough to be elected, I will definitely take this campaign to the government and the Premier if I have the opportunity,” he said.
Prominent local lawyer Brett McGrath has been campaigning for a justice precinct in the area for several years.
He said it was wonderful to have so many separate organisations – Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Liverpool councils, Macarthur Law Society, Law Society of NSW, Fairfield Liverpool Law Society, NSW Police Association, NSW Bar Association, Camden Region Economic Taskforce, NCOSS, Western Sydney Chamber of Businesses, Greater Sydney Commission and local politicians – united in the fight for a justice precinct.
“It is significant that so many people have come together to secure this pledge.”