Lawyers demand: ‘fix our court crisis’

Courts in crisis: Macarthur Law Society president Brett McGrath is spearheading a campaign to secure expanded and new court resources throughout the region.
Courts in crisis: Macarthur Law Society president Brett McGrath is spearheading a campaign to secure expanded and new court resources throughout the region.

A campaign to secure a new multi-jurisdictional court complex for the Macarthur district is officially under way.

Local solicitors and other legal professionals concerned about the inadequacy of existing court facilities in Macarthur met en-mass at Campbelltown Catholic Club on Tuesday night to discuss the matter and formulate a next-steps battle plan.

Those in attendance agreed that lobbying of regional politicians, both state and federal, was key and ought to start in earnest immediately.

The Law Society of NSW has vowed to help and will use its influence to increase awareness of “the crisis” and pressure government decision makers to fund solutions.

Law Society president Doug Humphreys described court operations locally as “absolutely choking”, adding that nowhere in NSW needed improved court facilities more than the Macarthur region.

“Victims are waiting excessively long periods for closure while stressed families are sometimes travelling hours to courts outside the area for help to resolve disputes,” Mr Humphreys said.

“Macarthur’s population is about 300,000 but this is expected to double to 600,000 people by 2036.

“If the court infrastructure is unable to cope with current demand, how will it manage a population explosion?

Mr Humphreys said Campbelltown Local Court had reached capacity with four magistrates and three district courts running at any one time.

The restricted sitting hours and inadequate security facilities at Camden and Picton Local Courts mean these courts cannot help address a backlog in criminal and civil cases,’’ he said.

Macarthur Law Society president and meeting instigator Brett McGrath said justice infrastructure provision, while just as vital as transport, education and health planning, had unfortunately been ignored.

His medium to long-term wishlist included construction of local, district, civil and family courts in a designed-for-purpose justice precinct located in a new growth suburb, perhaps at Leppington.

His top priority short-term goal however is the construction/provision of a Federal Circuit Court in Campbelltown where family matters can be heard.

“At the moment anyone involved in a family dispute must travel to Wollongong, Parramatta or Sydney to access justice,” he said.

“This shouldn’t be the case and causes a great deal of extra stress and cost to families.” 

Mr McGrath wants locals to back the campaign for better court services.

“Politicians need to know we care about this issue,” he said.  “I urge anyone who’s had a problem with their matter being delayed because of inadequate court resources or who’s experienced the inconvenience of having to travel to courts outside the area to write to me.”

Those letters will be used to pressure politicians into action.

 Email them to president@macarthurlawsociety.com.au by May 4, 2018.