NEWS a District Court judge will sit full-time at Parkes, Orange and Bathurst has been welcomed by barrister Bill Walsh, who said the appointment “was well overdue.”
Mr Walsh, regional barrister, and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Law and Justice at Charles Sturt University, welcomed Wednesday’s announcement by the Attorney General that as from 2020, a District Court judge will be permanently appointed to preside over the circuit courts of Parkes, Orange and Bathurst.
He described the present system of sending out a judge for a couple of weeks at a time as “totally unacceptable” given “the enormous increase in the workloads of those courts over the past 10 years.”
Mr Walsh said the District Court, currently sitting in Orange was just one example of the workload faced by judicial officers.
“This judge is faced with a massive list of cases to hear and decide. The judge has been working very long hours to try and complete the work but he has had to take some cases back to Sydney to finish,” he said.
“The next sittings of the District Court in Orange are in March. This means that people in custody from December onwards will have to wait until March.”
Mr Walsh described the workload of judicial officers in both the Local and District Courts as “relentless.”
“Judicial officers have to make massive decisions every day that affect the lives of their fellow citizens,” he said.
“Serious concern in recent times has been expressed as the impact of the workload on judges and magistrates with two magistrates in an interstate jurisdiction having committed suicide.”
Mr Walsh cited the Parkes District Court as one that has been very poorly serviced in the past with only two lots of two week sittings each year.
“Parkes District Court covers the Local Court areas of Parkes, Forbes, Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo,” he said.
“For some reason, the two week sittings in the first half of 2019 have been cancelled.
“A judge will not be coming to Parkes District Court until the second half of 2019. The last time a judge came to Parkes was in October of this year,” he said.
Mr Walsh said that hopefully the appointment of a permanent judge would bring an end to persons in custody having to wait an inordinate amount of time to have their cases finalised.
“In the present sittings of the District Court at Orange, one man has been locked up in jail for 18 months waiting for his sentence after he had already pleaded guilty,” he said.