A MAGISTRATE has labelled the Tamworth Courthouse “inadequate” after its facilities forced her to again delay the case of a person in custody.
Magistrate Julie Soars said the third courtroom in the court complex was inadequate and there was “a policy” not to list custody or video link cases because it couldn’t cater for those.
She told one accused man last week that the first available hearing date in January was not available to him because he was in custody; instead, it was listed weeks later when the main court had time.
“I can’t list hearings for custody matters … because of the inadequacies of court three,” she said.
I can’t list hearings for custody matters … because of the inadequacies of court three.- Magistrate Julie Soars
The third room is a callover room but doubles as a courtroom when the district court is sitting. At least one week per month it is used by the second magistrate, George Breton.
The room is cramped and doesn’t have facilities to house prisoners, who have to be bought up via the front entrance of the court from the neighbouring police station.
“Because of the inadequacy of the court complex to meet the needs of the local court,” Ms Soars said, the man would have to wait an extra fortnight to have his case heard “even though he is in custody”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said “the increased sittings at Tamworth Courthouse are helping to reduce backlogs and deliver faster justice”.
“The Department of Justice is continually reviewing its court facilities to ensure they meet the needs of the justice system,” the spokesperson said.
The issue has become an increasingly bigger headache with the district court sitting more and more in Tamworth.
In November, seven extra sitting weeks were announced for Tamworth, meaning the district court will now sit almost full-time from July to Christmas 2019 to hear trials, sentences and appeals as the court grapples with growing lists.
Magistrate Soars is not the first to slam the lack of facilities in the court complex, with her predecessors magistrate Prowse and Holmes also on the record.
The Leader has been told several other solicitors have expressed frustration at the situation.
The justice spokesperson said the courthouse had adequate security.
“Tamworth Courthouse is equipped with perimeter security, including airport-style x-ray machines and walk-through metal detectors,” the spokesperson said.
“There are also full-time Sheriff’s officers based at Tamworth Court to help keep the facility safe.”
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