Extra funding welcome but won't fix crumbling courts
22 June 2017
The Law Society welcomes the allocation of $31 million to upgrade the courts precinct but warns that this is only a stop-gap solution and in no way will fix the multitude of problems with the courts’ infrastructure.
Law Society President Tony Rossi said that while making Sir Samuel Way Building a dedicated criminal trial court and building two extra court rooms should make some headway in addressing the severe backlog in the courts, a wholesale redevelopment of the courts should still be considered an urgent priority.
“This stop-gap measure should not be considered a medium-term solution”, Mr Rossi said. “The Government itself acknowledged that building a new courts precinct was an urgent issue two years ago, and it remains an urgent issue.”
“The Society questions the wisdom of making repeated stop-gap measures instead of fixing the problem once and for all.”
The Law Society notes that the budget allocation also includes moving the civil jurisdiction from the Sir Samuel Way Building to the Supreme Court and refurbishing the Supreme Court Building.
“It is undesirable for a proper and efficient court for it to be divided over two premises,” Mr Rossi said.
“It is unclear whether the funding will be sufficient to address the numerous work health and safety issues in the Supreme Court Building or make the building accessible for people with a disability, which should be a minimum requirement,” Mr Rossi said.
“There are serious structural defects in the Supreme Court Building and they must be repaired as a matter of urgency.”
“We would welcome an explanation as to why, after the injection of more than $2.5 billion from the sale of the Motor Accident Commission, the issue of a new courts building remains unaddressed.”
The Law Society welcomes the additional half-placement of a Supreme Court Judge, but notes that the Society’s request for two extra District Court Judges has not been addressed.
“The District Court is the main trial court in the State.” Mr Rossi said. “The Budget documents themselves note serious backlogs in both the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the District Court.”