Wednesday, 7 February 2024
NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall used a speech in State Parliament last night to deliver a scathing assessment of the performance of a local court Magistrate and call for urgent action by the Chief Magistrate of NSW and the Attorney General to ensure that Magistrates receive stronger support to better meet community expectations.
Mr Marshall referred specifically to the actions of the Magistrate serving the Moree and Inverell local court circuit, and the continued “limp-wristed” response to serious offenders repeatedly put before the courts.
Mr Marshall’s call for action doubled down on his speech in Parliament last year, following a spike in crime across the Moree Plains and Inverell local government areas.
“I am incredibly frustrated to be standing here, singing the same song almost a full year later and still the Magistrate in Inverell and Moree continues treat serial offenders with kid gloves,” Mr Marshall said.
“My first statement of the 2023 Parliamentary sitting year touched on the rising tide of juvenile crime in our communities, especially Moree and Inverell.
“I spoke back then about the tireless efforts of the New England Police and some supporting authorities in doing their very best plus 100 per cent in holding back that tide.
“And I also highlighted that despite those efforts – the local judiciary seem to poke holes all through the blue wall – allowing a backflow of emboldened juvenile offenders back out into the community, time and again.
“As it was then, it is now – and the decisions made by the magistrate simply does not meeting the expectations of the community they serve as judicial public servants.
“I believe that as a direct result of that soft approach, crime and especially crimes committed by juvenile offenders – many of them no strangers to local police and the court – continue to increase.
“Sadly, those emboldened offenders are now taking along with them a new generation of feral children who have learned they can run amok with little or no consequence.”
The MP’s criticism last year earned the ire of the judiciary and others who hold the belief that actions by officers of the court should be beyond any criticism or comment.
While the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in NSW is important, the MP said that when the court’s decisions sit so far outside what community members, police and victims feel is appropriate, then he will dare to speak up.
“I dare because the present limp wristed approach by the Magistrate does not properly serve the community and further demoralises our hardworking women and men in blue,” Mr Marshall said.
“I believe the Magistrate needs to get outside of their ivory chamber to see what is really happening and ask themselves whether they are really up to the task at hand – delivering appropriate justice in a fair and even-handed manner.
“I have spoken to victims of these crimes which include home invasion, car theft, assault, malicious damage, serious driving offences, robbery and the most popular offence it seems – breach of bail conditions.”
The MP listed a few recent decisions by the court in Inverell to highlight his concerns –
• A 17-year-old was bailed by the court right back to the same home as the victims he had threatened to kill.
• An 18-year-old already on bail in Queensland for robbery in company, granted bail for new charge of aggravated robbery.
• A 16-year-old with an extensive history of non-compliance granted bail – he breached that bail within 48 hours, absconding and committing further offences.
“Then we have that umbrella act – Section 11 of the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act – which allows the court to defer sentencing so the offender can be rehabilitated, which given the lack of rehabilitation programs available in regional NSW – is really a get out of jail free card in many cases,” Mr Marshall said.
“The relentless revolving door at Inverell and Moree Courthouses has not been helpful in reducing criminal activity, and the workload faced each month by the judicial officers also needs to be reviewed by the NSW Chief Magistrate.
“This month in the Moree and Inverell Local Courts there are 697 cases currently listed and that does not include the fresh cases delivered to court by police most days.
“There is one Magistrate allocated on that ‘circuit’ and I am calling on urgent reform in the staffing of our regional courts so that deliberated and considered justice is applied and not a conveyer belt of humanity.
“The Chief Magistrate takes responsibility and so must be responsible in ensuring that equitable justice is delivered no matter the postcode.
“I’ll continue to push for reform and speak up on behalf of the community to secure the changes we need to keep us safe.”