Murwillumbah court cuts mean justice has to wait
TWO months into cutbacks at the Murwillumbah Local Court, lawyers claim residents facing adjourned AVOs, drink-driving or drug charges now have to wait up to a month - instead of one week - for a hearing.
Duty lawyer Kylie Rose said residents would be denied equitable access to justice until Murwillumbah Local Court had its opening hours reinstated.
Ms Rose lobbied Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice Troy Grant on Monday to reverse the 50% cut in hearing days that began in August.
"I am disappointed in the government's response overall," she said, following talks organised by Lismore MP Thomas George.
"I was told the National Party was powerless to resolve this issue; they are powerless to stop cuts to our local court."
Ms Rose said the parliamentarians tried to "pass the buck" in their argument that they could not overrule the chief magistrate and the president of the Children's Court in their decision to make the cut.
"The doctrine of the separation of powers shouldn't be used to pass the responsibility on to a level of bureaucracy," Ms Rose said.
She said the minister had argued the court needed to be more efficient.
"I explained to him the numbers in Murwillumbah are increasing," she said.
Hearings at Murwillumbah court had increased by 4.1% from 2012 to 2014.
Ms Rose was disappointed after Monday's meeting she had been sent a letter, dated September24, from Attorney General Gabriel Upton justifying the cut by the move of Roads and Maritime Services prosecutions to Tweed.
She said those matters did not equate to a 50% cut to hearing days and 66% cut to list days. She is now calling for more funding.
Mr George responded by reiterating justifications for the cuts, telling the Tweed Daily News the Tweed court had been given extra sitting days.
But court records show Tweed Local Court now finishes as early as 1.15pm under the new arrangement.
Mr George could not rule out fears Murwillumbah court would close entirely.