An emergency funding package worth $20m has been introduced to ease the pressure in NSW criminal courts by bringing in additional judges, public defence counsels and a new process to identify early guilty pleas.
Yesterday, NSW attorney-general Gabrielle Upton announced that deputy director of public prosecutions John Pickering and Crown prosecutor Siobhan Herbert will join the District Court bench.
“[The two] were appointed to enable the District Court to schedule 126 additional sitting weeks, to provide much needed relief for courts experiencing delays in regional and metropolitan areas,” she said.
“The funding package also delivers 130 sitting weeks over an 18-month period, which will be allocated based on need.”
According to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, a lack of resources created a backlog of almost 2000 cases last year as Local and District cases are funnelled through the Downing Centre and Parramatta justice precinct.
Last year, keeping prisoners in remand whilst awaiting trial cost an estimated $60m (a figure predicted to rise this year with the rising prison population).
Upton said she hopes the new initiatives to identify early guilty pleas will boost court productivity.
The NSW government is expected to introduce further reforms to avoid backlogs in the future.
Upton allocated to additional judges last year to hear child sex abuse cases and implemented a trial for an online court last year.