Author Hamish Thorburn and Don Weatherburn
Published October 2018
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 217
Subject Court processes and delay; Statistical methods and modelling; Evaluation reports
Keywords Court delay, ARIMA, time series, NSW District Criminal Court

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of various court reforms on the number of finalisations in the NSW District Criminal Court. The specific reforms were an increase in the number of judges, an increase in public defenders, conducting special call-overs and readiness hearings.


Data were obtained from NSW Court Services on the monthly time series of finalisations in the different courts and were analysed using ARIMA time series models.


The additional judges increased monthly total finalisations across the state by approximately 8.5 cases per judge (so approximately 43 cases after all 5 judges had commenced). In many courts, the special call-overs increased finalisations, with increases ranging between 9 and 39 cases (although the special call-over in the Parramatta court did not appear to have an effect). Aside from the special call-overs (which the public defenders have a central role in conducting), the pending caseload did not appear to change after the introduction of the two additional public defenders (although we explore possible reasons for this). The readiness hearings also appeared to have little direct impact on finalisations.


The introduction of the additional judges and special call-overs appears to be associated with increases in monthly finalisations. There did not appear to be a change in the level of the finalisations after the introduction of the readiness hearings or additional public defenders (noting that the public defenders were part of the successful special callovers), but we acknowledge that there are other benefits these interventions provide that are not considered in this bulletin.

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