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Backlog of court cases 'spiralling out of control'

Date

Ewa Kretowicz

ACT Law Society President Noor Blumer.

ACT Law Society President Noor Blumer. Photo: Gary Schafer

THE ACT Law Society is concerned about a growing backlog of cases before the Supreme Court with hearings set for April and May 2014.

Society president Noor Blumer said long waits placed stress on both the alleged victims and accused while significant delays between hearing and judgment were grounds for appeal.

''The memories of witnesses deteriorate as time passes, seriously affecting the veracity of the trial,'' Ms Blumer said.

''It is particularly hard on accused who have not been granted bail and must remain in remand for lengthy periods without trial.

''If they are later found to be not guilty or the sentence they do receive would have been less than the time they have already served, it is a serious injustice.''

A 12-week blitz earlier this year was aimed at clearing the backlog in the territory's higher court.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the blitz was very successful in dealing with the court's matters in both civil and criminal trials.

''There are various reasons why a matter may have been listed in 2014, including at the request of the parties, but I cannot comment on particular proceedings,'' Mr Corbell said. ''The fact that some matters have been listed in 2014 does not indicate a blow out of the list.''

But Ms Blumer said the list of cases was spiralling out of control again. ''I am aware that the listing date for criminal trials is starting to blow out again and I am informed that the latest date the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) is aware of is May 2014,'' she said.

As a temporary solution, Ms Blumer said the government should also consider appointing a criminal master for the Supreme Court, potentially for a set period of two years.

''The Supreme Court still has an unacceptably long list of reserved judgments to deal with,'' she said.

''I encourage the Attorney-General to engage temporary judges to allow those judges with long reserved lists to write those judgments. While this will cost money it is an urgent and serious situation.''

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