Thursday, 23 June 2016
NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has stepped up his campaign for a District Court judge to be permanently based in the region, calling on NSW Attorney General Gabrielle Upton to assign a judge to a permanent posting at Armidale, Moree or Tamworth, following funding in Tuesday’s State Budget for three new judges.
Mr Marshall has led a push to have up to six District Court judges given permanent postings to the State’s regional cities, instead of the judges working a court circuit while being based in Sydney.
His “Judges for the Bush” campaign bore welcome fruit in the budget,which saw $39 million allocated to alleviate the pressure on the district courts where trial dates locally have blown out by more than a year.
In Tamworth and Armidale, trials have already been scheduled as far as April next year, with some accused set to spend more than a year in custody as they wait to have their case heard.
The Attorney General has announced that one of the new judges will be based in Wagga Wagga, with two other position locations yet to be finalised. Mr Marshall is now calling on Ms Upton to allocate one of the other positions to the region, to service the Armidale, Moree and Tamworth District Courts.
“The current system of ‘fly-in, fly-out’ judges passing through our district courts in short stints to deal with cases isn’t working,” Mr Marshall said.
“It’s time we had a permanent solution, so those in custody don’t languish for a year in a prison cell, and victims and witnesses can move on with their lives.”
Currently, the only cities west of the divide with a permanent District Court judge are Dubbo and Lismore.
“Now our inland regional cities are large enough, and our District Courts regrettably busy enough, to more than justify having judges live in the regions they are presiding over,” he said.
By living in the regions, a judge can better understand the implications of their decisions from the bench, Mr Marshall observed, and their rulings would be better informed and better reflect community expectations.
“I applaud the Attorney General’s decisiveness in allocating judges to the bush, and I want to reinforce the case for a judge in our region,” Mr Marshall said.
“We have more than enough cases for them to handle and cities like Armidale and Tamworth also offer a judge a very pleasant living environment where the commute is a few minutes, rather than hours.”
Mr Marshall has taken up his appeal again directly with the Attorney General, and was joined by Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson.