Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

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​Trial court delay and the NSW District Criminal Court

Don Weatherburn and Jacqueline Fitzgerald

Crime and Justice Bulletin no. 184

Sydney, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, August 2015

Release Date: 24 August 2015

Media release

Full report [pdf, 800kb]

Summary

Between 2007 and 2014 trial delay in the NSW District Criminal Court increased 34% for defendants on bail and 44% for those on remand.  In 2014 the pending caseload had increased to 1716 trials. This reports finds these results to be due to increases in the volume of matters coming into the District Court, the proportion of matters committed to trial that proceed to trial and the duration of trials (i.e. number of hearing days).

Aim: To describe the growth in trial court delay in the NSW District Criminal Court and the factors affecting it.

Method: Descriptive analysis of court dat.

Results: Where the accused is on bail, the average time between committal for trial and case finalisation in the NSW District Criminal Court has grown by 34 per cent since 2007. Where the accused is in custody, the average time between committal for trial and case finalisation has grown by 44 per cent. The principal causes of the growth in delay are (1) a growth in persons arrested for serious (strictly indictable) offences, (2) an increase in the proportion of cases registered for trial that are actually proceeding to trial and (3) a growth in trial duration.

Conclusion: Action needs to be taken to reduce court delay in the NSW District Criminal Court and to improve the indicators of trial case processing. Measures that expand the Court's capacity or improve its efficiency will have a more immediate (though not necessarily larger) effect than measures that reduce demand for trial court time.

Keywords: trial court delay, backlog, case processing, efficiency, guilty plea, District Criminal Court

Figure 1. Average time (days) between committal for trial and case finalisation (2007 to 2014)