Governments like to be seen as tough on crime. There are many more police officers on the streets of South Australia than was once the case and, consequently, many more arrests and criminal charges to be dealt with by our courts. This has caused a serious problem of backlog in our criminal courts. Just this week the Courts Administration Authority released data indicating that the current backlog of cases is nearly three times larger than that recommended by productivity studies.
The Parliament has introduced legislation to tinker with the way the courts work, in attempt to improve efficiency.
From 1 July 2013, the Magistrates Court (the lowest court in our criminal court system) will have the power to deal with guilty pleas for almost every offence known to the law – even extremely serious offences that would previously have been dealt with by the higher courts. The sentencing powers of Magistrates will be considerably expanded – magistrates will be able to impose sentences of up to five years imprisonment for single offences. Previously the limit was two years.
These changes will, hopefully, ease the load on the judges of the District and Supreme Courts, allowing more defended matters to come to trial in those courts in a timely manner. The current backlog in those courts can lead to considerable stress for victims, witnesses and accused persons (and occasionally their lawyers).
The changes will also allow many people charged with serious offences to have their matters resolved reasonably swiftly – certainly much more swiftly than under the current system.
Dewar Legal acts in criminal law and traffic law matters. Please call (08) 8311 3964 today to arrange a free interview in relation to your matter.