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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 2826..


MR MULCAHY (continuing):

important that we ensure our courts can operate without having undue interference by the bureaucracy and that they are able to do the job at hand.

With respect to page 33 of the report, there was an attempt to make a great deal out of statistics relating to the progress of matters in the courts. As Mr Cahill, the Chief Magistrate, pointed out, various factors are contributing to delays in finalising matters or complicating scheduling. One of those is the different scope of our Magistrates Court compared to other jurisdictions. He also cited various other matters, including the preparedness of witnesses; parties having a tactical interest in delay; the removal of on-site corrective service officers; "door of the court"pleas of guilty; cases abandoned by the DPP or vacated for other reasons, which is probably going to get worse given the flight of staff from that agency; an increase in self-represented litigants, linked to inadequacies in legal aid funding; and new programs, such as the family violence intervention program, restorative justice or circle sentencing, which can delay finalisation of proceedings.

I will digress for a moment and say that, in particular, with a number of those who are up on drug-related charges, the practice is to attempt to rehabilitate straight-up, as I understand from speaking with members of the judiciary, so there will inevitably be long delays. It is misleading to assume that those delays are due to poor management in the courts; those delays are intentional.

Another factor in delaying the process that was mentioned was the use of Griffiths remand, which is an adjournment of six to 12 months following a finding of guilt, to permit the offender to take part in a rehabilitation program. That is what I was talking about in relation to drug offences. There is also the factor of the new sentencing reform package introduced in June 2006, which records outcomes differently.

This is a very important report. It took a long time to produce but it contains some valuable information. It will be tragic if it is dismissed out of hand. I urge the government to give serious regard to the recommendations. These are considered recommendations and I hope that the report leads to better circumstances in terms of funding for the courts and improvements in information technology. These have been cited in the report. They are important issues that ought to be embraced without delay.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Public Accounts—Standing Committee

Statement by chair

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo): Pursuant to standing order 246A I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts relating to the committee's request for a copy of the Strategic and functional review of the ACT public sector and services.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has been seeking a copy of the Strategic and functional review of the ACT public sector and services. The committee believes that access to the functional review, as the key document used in government decision making since 2006, is crucial to its role as scrutineer of the government's accounts and expenditure.


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