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Simple law reform significantly reduces District Court workload


Release Date: Thursday 12 August 2021 

Link to report summary:-

A simple change to allow certain offences to be prosecuted in the Local Court, rather than requiring them to be heard in the Higher Courts, has reduced the workload of the District Court by over 1,000 matters in 18 months.

In 2018, a number of lower level drug supply and robbery offences were reclassified to allow prosecutors to decide whether the matter should be resolved in the Local Court or the District Court.  Previously, all such offences were finalised in the District Court.  This was despite most offenders receiving sentences that could be imposed by the Local Court.

A new evaluation by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that this reform has delivered both a large reduction in District Court workload and a significant reduction in the time it takes to finalise these matters.  

In the 18 months following the reform:

  • 79% of eligible matters were finalised in the Local Court.
  • There were 81 fewer trials and 1,020 fewer sentence matters in the District Court.
  • Time from arrest to finalisation fell from over 14 months to about 8 months.
  • The likelihood of a prison sentence did not change but sentence length fell significantly.

Commenting on the reform, Jackie Fitzgerald, BOCSAR Executive Director said in many ways this is the perfect law reform.  "The reform cost almost nothing to execute, the justice system benefitted in moving matters from an expensive jurisdiction to a cheaper one, and the reduction in court delay has given greater certainty to offenders and victims."

Further enquiries: Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director, BOCSAR  0423 139 687
Email: bcsr@justice.nsw.gov.au
Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au