Justice delayed is justice denied in NSW courts

OVERLOADED prisons and ballooning district court backlogs have triggered a push to have break and enter cases heard in the local court.

Only unarmed break and enter crimes without violence or deprivation of liberty will be shifted to the lower court under proposed legislation with support from all sides of New South Wales politics.

The alleged intention behind the break and enters must be to steal or vandalise property, and the value of the stolen property or damage must not exceed $60,000.

The switch will allow the local court to quickly deal with matters without a jury unless the defendant or prosecutor requests one, in which case the matter will be sent to the district court.

The local court can only issue a maximum sentence of two years, compared to the five-year maximum penalty for break and enters before the district court.

Greens upper house MP David Shoebridge supported the law change, but warned it would not fix the real causes behind remand centre population blow-outs.

"The first is the chronic underinvestment in our courts and the second is that some very broken bail legislation is pushing the NSW population to record highs at a time when we have record low violent crime in this state," he said.

"So what is the cunning plan that the Baird Government comes up with? It is going to redefine some offences - quite serious property offences - as matters that can be dealt with on a summary basis in the local court."

Parliament heard about 80% of break and enter cases currently before the district court ended with prison sentences of two years or less.

The shift would likely result in the local court hearing 430 more matters a year, although there are currently plans to add only one more magistrate.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has revealed the median time between committal for trial and outcome grew 47.3% between 2011 and 2016, from 233.5 days to 344 days.

The wait for district court trial cases from arrest to finalisation increased 28.1%, from 502 days to 643 days.

ARM NEWSDESK