Chief District Court Judge urges patience as courts deal with jury trial overloads

Law News received the following letter from Chief District Court Judge her Honour Judge Jan-Marie Doogue on 24 January 2017.

Doogue

“Dear Editor

Your readers will be aware more than most of pressures in the criminal justice system. The District Courts have made big strides in recentyears in applying judicial resource more flexibly to meet surging or fluctuating demand, both geographically and by case type.

However, members of the Bar need to be aware that in the area of jury trial workload, there is little imminent relief from the strain the courts are under. With the current emphasis on family violence cases and Category 3 judge-alone trials, there is little scope to allocate extra judicial resource to jury trials.

There was a noticeable surge in caseload driven by new jury trial cases from late 2015, and though this seems to have plateaued in recent months, the District Courts still have 15% more jury trial cases on hand than two years ago. That’s more than 2000 active cases.

The good news is that the age of those cases is dropping and less than 3% of cases are aged over two years. Three quarters of active cases are less than a year old. Cases are being disposed of more quickly, at the rate of about 135 a month.

This is a testament to the hard work and commitment of everyone working in the courts. But in 2017 we will have to dig deeper to maintain the progress made in recent years, especially as rising crime rates produce ever more work for the courts, and at a time new constraints on judicial appointments kickin.

I ask your members for patience and cooperation in the year ahead as judges of the District Court strive to ensure the public we serve retain timely accessto justice.

Judge Jan-Marie Doogue

Chief District Court Judge”

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