It was great to be back in my home town of Devonport for the North West President’s drinks last Friday. As usual, the NW practitioners braved the cold with about 40 members attending the ethics CPD event and the same number having drinks/dinner at Mrs Jones restaurant which was a fabulous turn out. Thank you to those members of the profession that came, members of Council that travelled for the event and Magistrates Duncan Fairley and Katie Edwards for attending.
For several years the profession and Law Society have been assured that the Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division) Act and the Justice Connect project will assist with issues of delays in providing disclosure and improve methods of disclosure. However, due to various staffing issues and other matters the Justice Connect project and commencement of the Act has been delayed. Given the recent (and some historical) reports that the Society has received regarding delays I am sure the entire criminal justice sector cannot wait for the project to be launched for these issues to be ironed out.
Yesterday I met with Assistant Commissioner Adrian Bodnar, Commander Jason Elmer, Inspector of Southern Prosecution, Brenda Orr, and Senior Sergeant Darren Latham regarding ongoing disclosure issues in Southern Prosecution and prosecution generally. Recently there has been some correspondence from Southern Prosecution regarding changes in disclosure practices. That is, brief disclosure will be provided to defendants/ counsel on the first occasion free of charge. The practice of providing paper disclosure is not ideal administratively for defence lawyers, but it is a starting point for subsequent improvement. Further, providing electronic disclosure in a manner that is secure is obviously paramount. Two additional staff have been appointed to assist with the backlog of disclosure in prosecution for 6 months. The Law Society will be working with Tasmania Police prosecution to ensure that this can transition to an electronic method and that adequate resourcing is provided to the disclosure area to ensure disclosure is provided expeditiously.
We also discussed the issue that we are the only jurisdiction in Australia that pays for full disclosure. The new proposed legislation does prescribe that disclosure is not paid for. This is something that we will be closely monitoring and pushing for in the future. The immediate issue to hand is getting free disclosure early and electronically.
Given these are recently new developments, I do not expect to see immediate change but we have scheduled a further meeting in 6 weeks to discuss this as an ongoing matter. I recognise that I am not in the courts everyday like many of our members, so I want to hear from you and your experiences in this space, state-wide, not just southern. I can be reached at email@example.com.