A new Local Court circuit will come into effect on the Northern Rivers in July.
A new Local Court circuit will come into effect on the Northern Rivers in July. NewsRegional

Courts to sit for an extra 200 days a year

COURTS across the Northern Rivers are likely to enjoy improved efficiency when a new Local Court circuit comes into effect this year.

Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson has allocated an additional court circuit to the region.

The new circuit will begin on July 1 and, while based out of Grafton, the new Magistrate's circuit will encompass Casino and Maclean.

There will also be more than 200 extra sitting days across 10 Northern Rivers courts.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Magistrate's office said the changes should improve efficiency.

"The Chief Magistrate's decision to add 36 extra sitting days a year (three per month) at Lismore is expected to improve the efficiency of the Local Court by assisting in reducing backlogs for defended hearings and allowing more time for shorter matters such as sentences,” she said.

At present, all matters that fall into Casino Local Court's geographic catchment - but involve defendants who are bail refused - go before Lismore Local Court, which has facilities for custody matters.

It's understood a formal decision on how custody matters within the new court circuit are dealt with will be made when the new Magistrate has begun sitting.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman welcomed the changes.

"The new Grafton Local Court Circuit is great news for the Northern Rivers because extra sitting days will take pressure off the regional courts and ensure victims and their families have better access to justice,” Speakman said.

"Under the changes, Tweed Heads will gain 60 sitting days per year, Lismore Local Court will sit for an extra 36 days and Grafton's sittings will increase by 24 days.

"Casino, Kyogle, Maclean, Ballina, Byron Bay, Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby will each benefit from 12 extra sitting days a year.”

Mr Speakman said the appointment of the new Magistrate for the Grafton circuit was yet to be announced, but would increase the number of Local Court Magistrates across the Northern Rivers to five.

He said the State Government had funded this position, and one other extra Magistrate, through a $4.1 million package in response to the Child Abuse Royal Commission.

"Our country magistrates do an incredible job dealing with a significant and diverse workload,” he said.

"The Local Court is the busiest and most efficient jurisdiction in Australia, dealing with 96 per cent of all criminal matters from start to finish.”

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