CALLS for a District Court in the Tweed have been renewed as a new police headquarters emerges from the rubble at Tweed Heads South.
North Coast Law Society’s Cameron Bell has called for a new court to deal with the increasing number of District Court matters, in addition to mounting workloads at Tweed and Murwillumbah local courts.
Mr Bell said plaintiffs and witnesses faced a two-hour drive with extra legal costs when attending the closest District Court at Lismore, where 60% of the case-load originated in the Tweed.
He said there was an increasing backlog of matters, with some defendants forced to spend longer than acceptable in custody while waiting for hearings.
The District Court deals with serious criminal matters like murder, appeals against Local Court and Local Children's Court decisions, civil claims from $100,001 to $750,000, personal injury and defamation.
Data accessed by the Tweed Daily News showed district matters increased at Lismore by 18% in the three years to June 2015.
“Most backlogs at Lismore have come from the Tweed, so the view held by a number of colleagues is that there would certainly be a necessity for a district court in Tweed Heads,” Mr Bell said.
He said Tweed Heads Local Court also urgently needed more sitting days.
“Having worked in this area for 20 years I have seen an extraordinary increase in cases at Tweed and it is clear the court complex is no longer supportive in dealing with those matters,” Mr Bell said.
“It’s concerning those in custody, or people that have matters such as care and protection orders, have to wait long periods to have their matters dealt with.”
Tweed MP Geoff Provest backed the calls, saying he was “highly confident” there was a business case strong enough to convince the NSW Government a District Court was needed at Tweed Heads.
“About 60% of cases at Lismore are from this area, so it makes perfect sense,” Mr Provest said.
“The Lismore population isn’t growing as fast as ours - we’re growing three times the rate and here is where need the services.
“When developments in Piggabeen, Area E and King’s Forest are complete we’ll have a greater population and greater need for judicial services.
He said it was concerning a Tweed police patrol car and two officers were taken off the road to taxi prisoners to Lismore when correctional services weren’t available.
No District Court is planned for Tweed Heads but a spokesperson for Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said she would continue to work closely with Mr Provest “to ensure justice services for Tweed Heads meet the needs of the community into the future”.
“The Attorney General announced in December a comprehensive $20 million package to slash the NSW District Court backlog by more than 600 criminal trials over the next two years,” she said.
NSW Law Society president Gary Ulman slammed the package last week, saying it only provided “a short term fix.”
District court criminal matters at Lismore
60% are Tweed origin
Tweed Heads Local Court criminal matters