The Royal Courts of Justice Coat of arms, dieu et mon droit crest, at the Lismore Court House. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star
The Royal Courts of Justice Coat of arms, dieu et mon droit crest, at the Lismore Court House. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star Jay Cronan

‘We barely got through it’: court chaos slammed

IT WAS chaos at Murwillumbah Local Court this week as the impact of cuts to court sitting days began to be felt.

Additional cases already clogging future sitting days are expected to amplify the issue.

Duty lawyers said they were stretched to over three-times the volume of cases in one day, compared to before the cuts, which came into effect on August 25.

Previously there were three hearing days each month, now there is only one.

Despite NSW Justice moving Roads and Maritime Prosecutions to Tweed Local Court to ease the burden, criminal lawyers claimed they sat until after the registry was closed as they attempted to complete their work.

They said duty lawyers were forced to rush through police documents instead of reading them all, give clients advice “on the fly”, speak to the magistrate “off the cuff” and skip meal breaks in order to deal with the workload.

Although two duty lawyers were rostered to work, a third off-duty lawyer was called upon to help.

“We barely got through it,” said Egan Simpson associate and family

lawyer Kaela Clifford, adding there was also significant pressure on court staff to rush through resident matters.

“The overhang of matters that did not get dealt with this month will build up and bottle-neck,” Ms Clifford said.

“It’s not an efficient system at all,” she said.

“Any solicitor that has anything to do with Murwillumbah will say the same thing.”

The commotion caused a spectacle outside the courthouse too, with Tweed Shire Councillor Gary Bagnall calling for extra bins to be installed for the “scores of cigarette butts all over the pavement and rubbish on the seats”.

Murwillumbah solicitor Kylie Rose, who warned of the impending chaos as the cuts were announced, said she would continue to lobby the NSW Government this week to re-instate court sitting days.

“It is not just criminals who are affected, it is also the victims who do not have legal outcomes for months,” Ms Rose said.

She called on NSW Attorney General Gabriel Upton to rule out any pending plans to shut Murwillumbah Local Court for good. “At a recent speech for the NSW Law Society, (Ms Upton) flagged the closure of courts and sale of court buildings for those courts that aren’t sitting,”she said.

A NSW Justice spokesperson denied plans to close the courthouse.



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