Where’s the justice in planning?

Brett McGrath at Campbelltown Local Court. Picture: Simon Bennett
Brett McGrath at Campbelltown Local Court. Picture: Simon Bennett

Victims of crime would suffer even more if additional local courts weren’t built to accommodate the predicted population boom.

Local legal eagles are concerned a lack of planning for extra courts will lead to longer hearings and more delays within the justice system that is already bursting at the brim.

Macarthur Law Society president Brett McGrath said the Greater Sydney Commission – an organisation formed last year and charged with mapping out the future of Sydney and its fringes – had not addressed the legal needs of the growing region in its draft plan, released late-last year.

He recently made a submission to the GSC calling for the commission to consider establishing a new, large multi-jurisdictional precinct (made up of federal, local and family courts) that would be able to meet the demand of the growing population.

“They (the GSC) spoke about the environment and had a focus on health and education infrastructure – which are all important,” he said.

“But there was only one line that mentioned justice infrastructure.

“Aside from that, it didn’t mention anything else.

“There was no forward planning for providing extra justice facilities.”

Currently there are three courts in Macarthur – Camden Court House, which operates two days a month, Picton Court House, which has nine sitting days a month, and Campbelltown Local Court, which sits five days a week.

There is also a children’s court at Campbelltown.

The closure of Picton court in June last year meant cases had to be transferred to Moss Vale Local Court as Campbelltown could not accommodate the extra load.

Cases were also unable to be transferred to Camden due a lack of security infrastructure.

Mr McGrath, a former St Gregory’s College Campbelltown student, said the situation showed how much strain local facilities were already under.

“When people come before court it’s generally not a pleasant experience,” he said.

“Court cases don’t just involve defendants, there are also victims or crimes.

“If the population explodes and you don’t have more courts, judges and magistrates, your hearing which may have been two weeks could take up to four months.

“It leads to increased legal costs because you have to engage lawyers more and someone in remand (in jail accused of a crime) could be in there for longer.

“Victims of crime also have to wait longer a resolution which is never a good space for them to be in in terms of mental health.”

Mr McGrath said the submission wasn’t about banging the gavel and making demands of the commission, but more about highlighting the situation and asking for greater consideration.