THE Attorney-General said further resources could be thrown towards speeding up cases at a new state-of-the-art courthouse.
The multi-million dollar Armidale Courthouse was officially opened yesterday with minister Greg Smith, declaring it “one of the best he’s seen”.
The new precinct contains three courts, including a local court, trial or district court and a third court which can be used for spills from others, call overs, family law cases or tribunal or mediation matters.
“People of the country are entitled to the same standards as the city,” Attorney-General Greg Smith said.
“I want to keep the standard in the country, it’s a busy court covering work across the whole of the Northern Tablelands.”
It was a rocky road for the new precinct after building contractors, Buildplan, went into administration during construction.
Attorney-General Smith said the government was able to step in and get it back on track.
“We were relieved that the government was able to keep the project going because we did have that problem,” he said. “But we were able to use local tradespeople to finish the work.”
Mr Smith said the government was looking at cases in Armidale and Tamwort, after some trial times blew out to almost a year.
“They are having 14 weeks of district court sittings this year and that may well increase if needed,” he said of the Armidale court.
“We’re trying to deal with the blowouts when they occur.
“Anything that’s likely to last longer than two weeks ... it would be moved to Newcastle or Sydney.”
Mr Smith admitted there had been a spike in district court trials but his department was looking at ways to fast-track cases through discussions with the parties involved for early pleas or creating extra sitting times.
The design of the courthouse features large glass windows which allow clients to look over the parklands, while also feeding natural light back into the precinct.
The courthouse opened for business at the start of the month and the expanded court facilities will make it easier for people to connect with the judicial system, in whatever capacity.
“It’s got the absolute latest in digital and video technology which allows witnesses or victims to give evidence remotely and that’s particularly important for example in sexual assault cases,” Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said.
“All of those participants in the judicial process will be separated and people like jurors, witnesses, solicitors and the public all have a dedicated space.”
Mr Marshall said the justice precinct is now one of the best in NSW and was designed to reduce prisoner contact with the public.
“Prisoners will no longer be in any public spaces, they will be taken directly from the cells through an underground tunnel and into the court house so there is no risk of escape or contact with victims,” he said.