As work starts of Shepparton’s new $73m courthouse, Suzanna Sheed, the independent Member for Shepparton, has told the ABC that while she welcomes the developments, she remains concerned about cases transferred to other courthouses during the construction.
Supreme and county court trials have been moved to Wangaratta or Melbourne, while only plea hearings and sentencing remain at Shepparton.
According to an ABC report, Sheed will meet with the Chief Justice later in the week to discuss the issue. A major concern is that local police attending court would be taken out of the local area to do so.
“For people in the Shepparton area to have to travel to Wangaratta, there's virtually no adequate public transport at all between Shepparton and Wangaratta,” Sheed told the ABC.
“I understand even the court facilities at Wangaratta are challenged and so I'm very concerned about the provision of services to our local people over the next two to two and a half years.
“They [police] are now going to have to drive all the way to Wangaratta and back and we certainly know that we have a lack of police on the ground, that we really need to be making an effort to find an alternative venue for a magistrates court to sit in this town in Shepparton so that those courts can continue to sit in the old county court building.”
Construction for the new court is due to be completed by late 2017, parliamentary secretary for the justice, Ben Carroll said.
“The new Shepparton law courts, in line with the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations, will incorporate all the family violence facilities and services needed, including a remote witness suite, discrete meeting rooms and direct courtroom access and a child and family friendly waiting room,” he said.
He said that his office would be working to ensure an adequate solution during the construction and that it worked for all those involved.
“We're also working with the Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre and local law firm SMR Legal, a project steering committee has been established with representatives from all bodies that will use the new facility and we are very mindful of making the process as smooth as possible,” he said.