Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 6 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1695..
It is also timely that I introduce this bill today as there have been reports in the Canberra Times just this week further highlighting the issues facing our justice system despite the short-term measures that the government argues it is putting in place. The Canberra Times states that the outstanding caseload of a particular judge includes a number of decisions that have been reserved for longer than 18 months, with one more than four years old. Obviously allowing this judge time away from the bench to address these cases will provide some short-term relief to the pressures on this particular judge. However, in the long term taking one judge away from the bench increases the delays for the cases still to be heard and increases the pressure on the remaining judges.
The delays to judgements are well known, and they continue to get longer year after year. The Attorney-General is only prepared to take short-term measures that take off some of the pressure for a few months, and then the delays continue.
It is with interest that I note the statements Mr Corbell has made against the introduction of an additional judge and the statements he has made in regard to the establishment of an industrial magistrates court. His continuing rhetoric seems to indicate that he is willing to speak about the importance of access to justice and, in the case of the industrial magistrate, the importance of access to justice for industrial matters, but is unwilling to take any real action to back this rhetoric up.
The introduction yesterday of the exposure draft legislation seems to indicate, as expressed by the Law Society, that this does nothing to increase the resources available to hear cases but just rebrands current resources. In the case of addressing the delays in regard to the fifth judge, Mr Corbell produces the same result. He is not willing to provide any additional resources to the Supreme Court, but he is happy to shuffle things around, like removing a judge from a bench for a couple of months, for it to appear as if something is happening.
I return to the important point I made in my speech to the Assembly in March: justice delayed is justice denied. The delays we are currently experiencing do not serve to benefit anyone. Many Canberrans have had their lives turned upside down by court cases, and the continued delays in addressing them have meant that their suffering is exacerbated. Having businesses caught up in long litigation, as I stated at the beginning, is putting their livelihoods at risk and causing untold stress. The accused awaiting trial are often detained on remand at the AMC only to be released soon after trial as they are deemed to have served their sentence. Their classification in the prison, of being held on remand rather than sentenced, means that they often cannot participate in rehabilitation programs.
And the pressure continues to mount on the judges themselves. Judges need time to pay due diligence to the case at hand. We do not want them overburdened in delivering decisions and, as a result, not being able to properly consider all of the arguments. Furthermore, a number of cases that have been run in the past year have cited these very court delays as a reason to challenge refusal of bail or to seek dismissal of cases, thereby further adding to the judicial workload.