Court bursting at the seams
AN "extraordinary caseload” at Grafton Local Court could lead to it becoming the centre of a new magistrates circuit.
NSW Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson has proposed two new country circuits, one at Grafton and the other at Muswellbrook, after the State Government committed to funding two additional magistrates to the Local Court.
In a letter sent to members of the legal fraternity, Mr Henson proposed a new circuit centring on Grafton that took in Maclean and Casino.
The chief magistrate's proposal was greeted warmly in political circles.
"I welcome the extraordinary increase in sittings on the far-north coast proposed by the NSW Chief Magistrate,” said Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis.
"I fully support Judge Henson's proposal to increase sittings days at Grafton, Casino and Maclean courthouses and look forward to his decision in 2019.”
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the extra sitting days would enable faster justice, which would relieve pressure on victims, witnesses and police officers involved in criminal proceedings.
"The proposed extra sitting days would help clear up the Local Court backlog in these regions now, and well into the future, as well as easing the burden on our hardworking magistrates,” Mr Speakman said.
A table in Judge Henson's letter showed Local Court could sit on the four Mondays and Tuesdays each month in Grafton.
The extra magistrate would allow an extra sitting day in Maclean, with court sitting there on the second Thursday and Friday in the month and the fourth Wednesday and Thursday.
There would be three further sitting days in Grafton on the second Wednesday and first and fourth Fridays of the month.
The new circuit would create three extra sitting days in Grafton, creating 15 court sitting days at the two Clarence Valley courthouses.
If the proposed changes are green-lighted, they would come into effect on July 1 next year.