Local Court Process Reforms

 

Full report - Evaluation of the Local Court Process Reforms(pdf, 628Kb)

Release date: 5 March 2012, Embargo: 10.30am

Despite the concerns of some within the legal profession, legislation designed to reduce the time police spend in court does not seem to have led to longer hearings or resulted in cases taking longer to finalize in court. However nor does it seem to have had a large impact on the amount of time police spend preparing briefs of evidence for court.

These findings emerged today from a two-year evaluation of the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Local Court Process Reforms) Act (2007) by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The Act was introduced to address police concerns that they were wasting large amounts of time preparing briefs of evidence for cases in which the accused eventually pleaded guilty, thereby obviating the need for a brief of evidence.

The new legislation removed the requirement for a 'full brief' of evidence before a plea was entered for very serious (Table 1) offences, requiring a full brief of evidence only after a 'not guilty' plea was entered.

In many less serious cases (e.g. those involving Table 2 and non-specified summary offences) the Act also permitted 'short briefs' of evidence to be provided to defense instead of full briefs of evidence.

Police welcomed the reforms but concerns were expressed within the legal profession that lack of access to a full brief of evidence before trial may force defense lawyers to seek more adjournments or spend longer when they reach trial trying to elicit evidence in court that they had not been able to obtain from the police before the trial.

To test these claims, regulations were introduced allowing Manly and the Northern Beaches Local Areas Commands (LACs) to revert to the pre-LCPR arrangements. The Bureau then compared outcomes for criminal prosecutions in these LACs with outcomes in a control LAC (Mt Druitt) which remained under the LCPR system.

Contrary to expectations, reverting to the pre-LCPR arrangements did not result in a significant increase in the percentage of cases where full briefs of evidence were produced for Table 1 matters. However the number of police statements prepared for Table 2 and non-specified summary matters did increase during the non-LCPR period compared with the LCPR period - suggesting that the reforms did save at least some police time.

The Bureau found no change in the mean hearing time for defended cases in Manly Court during the non-LCPR period, nor in the mean number of adjournments. In Manly Local Court, the average time to finalize cases was actually shorter during the LCPR period compared with the non-LCPR period.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190