An extra magistrate will sit at Orange Local Court for a week in March to ease the court’s workload.
A spokeswoman from the Chief Magistrate’s Office said Orange Local Court has a significant workload so an additional magistrate has been allocated to sit at Orange from March 18 to 22.
It comes at the same time as the naming of the first full-time judge, Graham Turnbull, who will preside over District Court matters at Orange, Bathurst and Parkes, to reduce the backlog of matters in that jurisdiction.
Former police prosecutor and member for Orange Phil Donato said Orange Local Court is part of a circuit, which means the magistrate also appears in Mudgee Local Court each month.
“Orange needs to be a full-time court in its own right,” Mr Donato said.
What we see unfortunately due to the workload is hearings being listed well over six months from the time of their first court [appearance].Member for Orange Phil Donato
“What we see unfortunately due to the workload is hearings being listed well over six months from the time of their first court [appearance].
“There needs to be a revising of the court system.”
Mr Donato said this could be achieved by introducing a stand-alone domestic violence court because Orange has double the domestic violence rates of the rest of the state.
“It’s important that those matters are dealt with as quickly as possible before victims or witnesses move away,” he said.
Orange Local Court sits each Monday, and there were about 80 matters on Monday.
However, hearing days are only held for two weeks each month and as a result some hearings where a person has entered a not guilty plea are already scheduled for August.
Campbell Paton and Taylor partner and solicitor Mason Manwaring said the six-month delay could be difficult, especially for clients who may be on strict bail conditions, in custody, or who are subject to provisional or interim apprehended domestic/personal violence orders that they are contesting.
“In short, I do not think the [court] lists are too big, however, the delay in receiving a hearing date is very problematic,” Mr Manwaring said.
“Thus, if we had more sitting days for hearing the delay would be reduced which would be beneficial both to defendants/victims/complainants.
“It must be remembered that whilst we primarily act for defendants, the victims/complainants have their life on hold, often while these matters wait to be finalised.”
Mr Manwaring said quite often bail conditions or interim apprehended domestic violence orders or apprehended personal violence orders restrict a defendants’ ability to reside in their home, attend to their life normally, in some circumstance even live in Orange.
“Likewise, a person can be held in custody for well over six months in circumstances where there may be not guilty,” he said.
“I think our local magistrate would be greatly assisted if there could be more hearing days appointed or perhaps an additional magistrate attending Orange from time to time to deal with hearing matters only.”
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