Coffs Harbour is to have a permanent District Court judge located in the region, NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman and Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser announced today.
The Chief Judge, the Honourable Justice Derek Michael Price AM, will call for expressions of interest later this year, with the appointee to begin in early 2020.
Mr Fraser said the appointment of a resident judge for Coffs Harbour will provide a major boost for the local legal sector as well as helping those who have to appear in court.
“Having a dedicated District Court judge based on the Mid-North Coast is a major win for the Coffs Harbour community. It will mean more sittings than ever before and faster access to justice for victims and their families,” Mr Fraser said.
At the end of last year, the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government announced a $150 million package to fund seven additional judicial officers to relieve pressure on District Court backlogs and to boost capacity at regional courts.
Mr Speakman said the appointments have taken the number of full-time District Court judges to a record high of 75.
“Justice Price has already identified resident judges to sit on the Bathurst, Orange & Parkes circuit and the Albury & Griffith circuit. The addition of a permanent judge at Coffs Harbour further reinforces the Government’s commitment to strengthening the justice system in our regions,” Mr Speakman said.
The District Court sat for 30 weeks in Coffs Harbour in 2018 and is scheduled to sit for 40 weeks in 2019. There are currently 29 trials pending.
Justice Price will continue to monitor the workload in Coffs Harbour this year to determine if extra sittings are necessary to take the pressure off the courts. A relieving judge would preside at these hearings.
“The NSW Government has made record investments in fighting crime since 2011, including 1000 additional frontline police, with 1500 more to come, and new technology which has resulted in more offenders being charged with serious offences,” Mr Speakman said.
As well as extra judges, the District Court funding package also allows the appointment of more Crown Prosecutors, Witness Assistance Officers, Legal Aid lawyers, court staff and Sheriff’s officers.