Professional Development (Education) Committee Report 13
Civil Jurisdiction 16
New South Wales 16
Residual Jurisdiction 21
Sydney West 21
Criminal Jurisdiction 24
Trial Listing Outcomes 27
Short Matters 30
Judicial Resources 33
Allocated Sittings 33
Actual Sittings 33
Annexures A – Civil Caseload 36
Annexures B – Criminal Caseload 39
Annexure C – Compliance with Criminal Time Standards 43
Annexure D – Court Committees 47
Foreword by Chief Judge
The most significant feature of 2012 was the increase in criminal cases committed for trial. During the course of the year there were 1,876 committals for trial compared to 1,576 in 2011 and 1,650 in 2010. The average length of a criminal trial in the District Court is just under two weeks and although a large number of trial matters eventually plead guilty or are dealt with in some way other than by trial, they do constitute the major work of the Court. During the course of the year the Court disposed of almost exactly the same number of criminal trials as in 2011. The end result was therefore an increase in trial registrations of 19% but it has led to an increase in the trial caseload of 34%, such that at the end of the year there were 1,363 trials awaiting a hearing compared to 1,019 at the end of 2011.
Neither the Court nor the criminal justice system as a whole can cope with an increase of criminal trials of such magnitude with the same degree of efficiency as has occurred in the past. The number of criminal trials outstanding at the end of the year is more than at any time since the year 2000. The inevitable result will be an increase in the delay in having criminal trials heard and that has an impact on the ability of the prosecution to prove its case, the welfare of victims awaiting the finalisation of matters and the anxiety of accused awaiting trial, particularly where bail is refused and the accused spends a longer time in custody awaiting trial.
The Australian Productivity Commission’s Annual Report again indicates this Court is the most efficient trial court in Australia, although again we have failed to meet the Australian standard of having less than 10% of cases more than 12 months old. That Report indicated we had 10.6% of cases more than 12 months old. It cannot be expected that this figure will improve, bearing in mind the significant increase in criminal trial registrations.
During the course of 2012 the Court also absorbed the Workplace Health and Safety prosecutions previously dealt with by the Industrial Relations Commission. There were 106 prosecutions registered. Only 19 have been dealt with because of pending appeals. Once those appeals are finalised a more accurate assessment will be able to be made of the likely impact on the Court of these cases.
During the course of the year the Court was also involved in hearing people smuggling trials. Fortunately because the Commonwealth prosecuting authorities took a different view of the way these matters were to be disposed of, they have now almost entirely disappeared from the Court lists. On the other hand the fact that for a significant part of 2012 the Court was conducting three such trials at any given time constituted a significant drain on the resources of the Court.
The civil business of the Court has remained largely steady as it has for a number of years past. The Court normally sits 15 judges in Sydney. The management problem with the civil list is to ensure all cases are heard when they are listed and in 2012 in Sydney there were almost no civil trials not reached on the day listed for trial. Again the Productivity Commission Report for the year ended 30 June 2012 showed this Court as being one of the most efficient civil trial courts in Australia. Throughout the year in order to maintain a presence of the Court in its civil jurisdiction at some country venues, it has been necessary to provide a civil sittings of one week at the end of criminal sittings. This has been done because of the importance in providing this service to as broad an area of country venues as possible.
The Honourable Justice R O Blanch AM Chief Judge
The District Court
By the middle of the 19th Century the court system in New South Wales consisted of:
The Supreme Court of New South Wales which, under the Third Charter of Justice sealed in 1823, had a criminal and civil jurisdiction similar to that of the superior Courts of England;
Courts of General and Quarter Sessions which could deal with “crimes and misdemeanours not punishable by death”,
Courts of Requests in Sydney and the County of Cumberland, with a civil jurisdiction not exceeding £30; and
Courts of Petty Sessions, which dealt with criminal misdemeanours in a summary way and had a civil jurisdiction up to £10 (or £30 if the defendant consented).
With the discovery of gold in 1851 the Colony’s population increased and became more dispersed. Litigation grew as the Colony prospered, and crime was not declining. The Supreme Court began to fall seriously into arrears, and this was not helped by the fact that it did not visit a lot of towns. Courts of Quarter Sessions were also few in number and had no civil jurisdiction.
By the mid 1850’s there were calls for a revision of the court system, to meet the growing needs of the Colony. As a result, the District Court Act 1858 (22 Vic No 18) was assented to on 12 November 1858.
This Act established District Courts, as courts of records, to replace Courts of Requests and divided the Colony into Districts. It conferred upon the District Courts a civil jurisdiction.
It also provided for the appointment of a District Court judge as Chairman of any Court of Quarter Sessions or General Sessions, to be held within the limits of the District for which that judge was appointed.
The purpose of the Act was briefly described in The Practice of the District Courts of NSW by W.J. Foster and C.E.R. Murray (Sydney, 1870), as follows:
“District Courts were established by the Legislature for the purpose of simplifying legal proceedings in the recovery of amounts under £200, and lessening the expenses of attending such proceedings, as well as to relieving the Supreme Court of some portion of the overwhelming civil business which the rapid progress of the colony had lately engendered.
The Act providing for the institution of these Courts also extended the jurisdiction of Courts of General and Quarter Sessions of the Peace, and prepared the way for a great increase in their numbers, under the presidency of District Court judges as Chairmen, whereby criminal proceedings have been much facilitated, especially in the more distant and outlying portions of the country…”
The District Courts Act 1858 remained in force until 1973, although the jurisdiction of the Court was increased from time to time.
The District Court Act 1973 commenced on 1 July 1973. It abolished the District Courts and Courts of Quarter Sessions and established one District Court of New South Wales, with a state wide criminal and civil jurisdiction.
The District Court is the intermediate Court in the State’s judicial hierarchy. It is a trial court and has an appellate jurisdiction. In addition, the judges of the Court preside over a range of tribunals.
In its criminal jurisdiction, the Court may deal with all criminal offences except murder, treason and piracy.
In its civil jurisdiction the Court may deal with:
All motor accident cases, irrespective of the amount claimed;
Other claims to a maximum amount of $750,000, although it may deal with matters exceeding this amount if the parties consent.
In addition, the Court may deal with equitable claims or demands for recovery of money or damages for amounts not exceeding $750,000.
The Court is also empowered to deal with applications under the De Facto Relationships Act 1984, the Family Provisions Act 1982 and the Testator Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants Act 1916 that involve amounts, or property to the value of, not more than $250,000.
The following were the judges of the Court as at 31 December 2012.
The Honourable Justice Reginald Oliver Blanch AM*
His Honour Judge Ronald Herbert Solomon, Her Honour Judge Dianne Joy Truss, His Honour Judge Garry William Neilson, His Honour Judge Christopher John Armitage, His Honour Judge Christopher John George Robison, Her Honour Judge Robyn Christine Tupman, His Honour Judge James Patrick Curtis*, Her Honour Judge Helen Gay Murrell SC, Her Honour Judge Deborah June Payne, His Honour Judge Martin Langford Sides QC, His Honour Judge Robert Keleman SC, Her Honour Judge Anne Mary Quirk, Her Honour Judge Linda Margaret Ashford, His Honour Judge Gregory David Woods QC, His Honour Judge Norman Edward Delaney, His Honour Judge Jonathan Steuart Williams, His Honour Judge Kevin Patrick O’Connor AM, Her Honour Judge Jennifer Anne English, Her Honour Judge Susan Jennifer Gibb, His Honour Judge Kevin Peter Coorey, His Honour Judge James Walter Black QC, His Honour Judge Robert Arthur Sorby, His Honour Judge Stephen Ronald Norrish QC, Her Honour Judge Audrey Suzanne Balla, His Honour Judge Michael John Finnane RFD QC*, Her Honour Judge Penelope Jane Hock, Her Honour Judge Judith Clare Gibson, His Honour Judge Stephen Lewis Walmsley SC, His Honour Judge Anthony Martin Blackmore SC, His Honour Judge Peter Graeme Berman SC, His Honour Judge Raymond Patrick McLoughlin SC, His Honour Judge Colin David Charteris SC, His Honour Judge Roy David Ellis, His Honour Judge Mark Curtis Marien SC, His Honour Judge Brian John Knox SC, His Honour Judge John Roger Dive, Her Honour Judge Deborah Anne Sweeney, His Honour Judge James Leonard Alexandre Bennett SC, His Honour Judge Peter Lind Johnstone, His Honour Judge William Patrick Kearns SC*, His Honour Judge Paul Vincent Conlon SC, His Honour Judge Peter Raymond Zahra SC, His Honour Judge Richard Dominic Cogswell SC, Her Honour Judge Leonie Flannery SC, His Honour Judge Robert Stephen Toner SC, His Honour Judge Gregory Michael Keating, His Honour Judge Paul Ivan Lakatos SC, His Honour Judge Leonard Levy SC, His Honour Judge Michael Elkaim SC, His Honour Judge Michael King SC, His Honour Judge David Clement Frearson SC, His Honour Judge Andrew Michael Colefax SC, Her Honour Judge Helen Syme, His Honour Michael Ivan Bozic SC, His Honour John North, His Honour Judge Graham Leslie Henson, Her Honour Judge Laura Kathleen Wells SC, His Honour Judge Ross Victor Letherbarrow SC, His Honour Judge Andrew Carl Haesler SC, Her Honour Judge Donna Mary Lisa Woodburne SC, Her Honour Judge Elizabeth Margaret Olsson SC, His Honour Judge Clive Vaughan Jeffreys.
* denotes Member of the Dust Diseases Tribunal
The following Judges were appointed during 2012 on the dates indicated in brackets after their name:
His Honour Judge David Ulric Arnott SC (13 February 2012), His Honour Judge Peter George Maiden SC (12 March 2012), His Honour Judge Phillip Gregory Mahony SC (19 March 2012), His Honour Judge Christopher Phillip Hoy SC (16 April 2012), His Honour Judge Phillip Thomas Taylor SC (16 April 2012), His Honour Judge Gordon Bruce Lerve (31 May 2012), His Honour Judge Ian Hartley McClintock SC (24 September 2012), His Honour Judge Christopher Bruce Craigie SC (15 October 2012), Her Honour Judge Sarah Jane Huggett (15 October 2012).
The following Judges retired during 2012 on the dates indicated in brackets after their name:
Her Honour Judge Margaret Sidi (11 April 2012), His Honour Judge Richard Anthony Rolfe (13 April 2012), Her Honour Judge Margaret Ann O’Toole (31 May 2012), His Honour Judge Anthony Frederick Garling (29 June 2012), His Honour Judge John Cecil Nicholson SC (29 June 2012), His Honour Judge Colin Emmett O’Connor QC (29 June 2012).
Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW
His Honour Judge Stephen Lewis Walmsley SC acted as a Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW from 30 January 2012 to 30 June 2012.
The Honourable Justice Reginald Oliver Blanch AM, held the appointment of President of the Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW. His Honour Judge Kevin Patrick O’Connor AM, held the appointment of President of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of NSW. His Honour Judge Mark Curtis Marien SC, held the appointment of President of the Children’s Court of NSW. His Honour Judge John Roger Dive held the appointment of Senior Judge of the Drug Court of NSW. His Honour Judge Peter Lind Johnstone held the appointment of President of the Children’s Court of NSW. His Honour Judge Gregory Michael Keating held the appointment of President of the Workers Compensation Commission of NSW. His Honour Judge Graeme Leslie Henson held the appointment of Chief Magistrate of the Local Court of NSW.
The Honourable Justice Reginald Oliver Blanch AM, Chief Judge, held the appointment of Chairperson of the Medical Tribunal of New South Wales. The following Judges held appointments as Deputy Chairpersons of the Tribunal as at 31 December 2012. Her Honour Judge Helen Gay Murrell SC, Her Honour Judge Audrey Suzanne Balla, His Honour Judge Stephen Lewis Walmsley SC, His Honour Judge Peter Lind Johnstone, Her Honour Judge Leonie Flannery SC, His Honour Judge Paul Ivan Lakatos SC, His Honour Judge Michael Elkaim SC, His Honour Judge Leonard Levy SC, His Honour Judge Andrew Michael Colefax SC, His Honour Judge Phillip Gregory Mahony SC, The Honourable Justice Anna Frances Backman, The Honourable Justice Conrad Gerard Staff.
Acting Judges (in alphabetical order)
Mr Warwick John Andrew CBE, Mr Ian Barnett, Mr Terence Joseph Christie QC, Mr Garry Spencer Forno QC, Mr David James Freeman, Mr Anthony Frederick Garling, Mr Geoffrey John Graham, Mr Gregory Scott Hosking SC, The Honourable Barrie Clive Hungerford QC, Mr Luigi Maria Baliano Lamprati, Mr Rodney Neville Madgwick QC, The Honourable Francis Marks, Mr Neil Ferguson McLauchlan QC, Mr John Kennedy McLaughlin, Ms Helen Jane Morgan, Mr John Cecil Nicholson SC, Mr John Roscoe Nield, Mr Colin Emmett O’Connor QC, Mr Colin Phegan, Mr Anthony Francis Puckeridge QC, Ms Margaret Sidis, Mr Kenneth Victor Taylor AM RFD.
Mr James Howard is the Judicial Registrar and exercises functions pursuant to Section 18FA of the District Court Act 1973.
In 2012 the Court sat permanently in Sydney at the Downing Centre, 143-147 Liverpool Street, Sydney (in crime), where it occupies 17 courtrooms, and at the John Maddison Tower, 86 Goulburn Street, Sydney, where it occupies 22 courtrooms (mostly in civil).
In Sydney West, Judges sat full-time in the Court Houses at Parramatta (8 courtrooms), Penrith (1 courtroom) and Campbelltown (1 courtroom).
In addition, continuous sittings were conducted at Gosford, Lismore, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Other places where the Court sat were:
Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Bega, Bourke, Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour, Coonamble, Dubbo, East Maitland, Goulburn, Grafton, Griffith, Lismore, Moree, Nowra, Orange, Parkes, Port Macquarie, Queanbeyan, Tamworth, Taree, and Wagga Wagga.
Ms Pam Olsoen is the Principal Registrar and exercises functions pursuant to Section 18H (3) of the District Court Act 1973.
Criminal Listings and Judicial Arrangements
Schedules cases in accordance with Court policy; prepares lists, allocates courtrooms, and co-ordinates the assignment of judges to venues throughout the State.
Mr Robert Fornito is the District Court Criminal Listing Director. Pursuant to Section 123 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, the Criminal Listing Director is responsible to the Chief Judge in making arrangements for the listing of criminal proceedings.
Civil Listings and Case Management
Implements civil case management and listing practices for the timely finalisation of cases, schedules cases, prepares lists and allocates courtrooms.
Ms Jane Dunn is the Civil List and Case Manager and works in conjunction with the Civil List Judge and the Judicial Registrar in making arrangements for the listing of civil proceedings.
Civil Business Committee Report
In August 2007 the Court introduced its third Strategic Plan. The first such plan was adopted in 1995 and it provided a template for significant changes in the way the Court operated as did the second Strategic Plan in 2000.
The Strategic Plan articulates the values of the Court and sets out the goals to be achieved over 2007-2012 in carrying out this role in line with these values.
The Court is committed to discharging its responsibilities to ensure:
That the Court is accessible to the public and those who need to use its services;
The effective determination of cases in an orderly, cost effective and expeditious manner. The equal protection of the law to all;
The independence of the Judges of the Court, and the Court as a branch of our system of government;
Accountability for the performance of the Court and its use of public funds;
The highest standard of excellence in the functioning of the Court.
As in past plans, the Court will continue to maintain a Policy and Planning Committee to provide advice to the Chief Judge on matters relating to the business of the Court. There are also three major business committees that are accountable to the Policy and Planning Committee. Those Committees are:
The Civil Business Committee;
The Criminal Business Committee;
The Professional Development (Education) Committee.
Terms of Reference
To monitor, report and advise on any matter relating to the Court’s objective of providing a system for the earliest, most effective and efficient resolution of civil disputes.
The Committee consists of judges of the Court, the Judicial Registrar, the Civil List and Case Manager and representatives of the Law Society of NSW, the Bar Association of NSW, the Insurance Council of Australia and the Motor Accidents Authority.
The Committee met on three occasions during the year and matters considered included:
The Court’s Operational Performance Report with up-to-date statistical information presented at each meeting.
Proposed amendments to the rules and practice notes.
Particular concerns of the various representatives and matters which the Court wished to bring to their attention.
The Committee considered a wide range of issues including:
The components of the caseload by cause of action;
Pre-action protocols under Part 2A of the Civil Procedure Act;
The Court Information Act;
The review of the Civil Procedure Act;
The review of the Costs assessment regime;
The Motor Accidents Compensation Act, in particular, late claims, s109 applications and the review of the legislation;
Judicial movements including the availability of funding for acting judges as affecting the civil jurisdiction;
The transfer of matters from the Supreme Court;
Practical aspects of amendments to the form of affidavits necessitated by the Identification Legislation Amendment Act;
Practical aspects of discovery;
The amendment of Practice Note 8 – Early Return of Subpoena and the new subpoena forms;
Adherence to timetable orders and the attendance indicator statistics in the Professional Negligence List;
Analysis of the ADR, and in particular the mediation, referral statistics and their comparison with previous years;
To monitor, report and advise on any matter relating to the Court’s goal of providing a system for the earliest, most effective and efficient resolution of criminal matters.
Consultation with court users is carried out through the Criminal Business Committee. The Committee consists of a judge of the Court, the Criminal Listing Director and representatives from the Law Society of NSW, Bar Association of NSW, Legal Aid, Commonwealth and State DPP’s, Aboriginal Legal Service, Public Defenders and Crown Prosecutors.
The Committee met on four occasions during the year.
The Court continued to target older pending cases throughout the state. The ROGS (Report on Government Services) as at 30 June 2012 continues to show NSW leading the nation in the finalisation of criminal cases.
The Court continues to manage and list criminal trials in country circuits by way of a telephone call over.
The average length of trials in Sydney dropped slightly to 10.98 days (compared to 11.93 days in 2011). The state wide trial average was 8.71 days, unchanged from last year.
There has been a significant increase in criminal trial registrations in 2012. State wide there was a 19% increase made up of a increases of 13% in Sydney, 30% in Sydney West and 17% in the Country.
A new state of the art multi accused courtroom commenced sitting in April 2012. The courtroom is designed to accommodate 18 accused and 36 legal representatives at the bar table.
The District Court commenced hearing prosecutions under the Work Health and Safety Act from the start of 2012. These matters were previously dealt with by the Industrial Court of NSW. The Court registered 106 prosecutions in 2012 dealing with 19, with 87 pending.
The Court continued to deal with people smuggler trials. 17 individual people smuggler matters were committed for trial to the District Court. 7 individuals who had been committed prior to 2012 did not proceed to trial but were discontinued on the basis of the possibility that the person was under 18 years of age. 55 individuals came before the court in 38 trials. 5 of these 55 were re trials (at the second trial 3 were withdrawn, 1 convicted and 1 acquitted).
An overall breakdown of the results of the trials of these 55 matters is as follows: –
The Court continues to maintain a collaborative approach in its partnership with the Court’s stakeholders in its criminal jurisdiction.
Professional Development (Education) Committee Report
Terms of Reference
The District Court, in partnership with the Judicial Commission of New South Wales, provides a continuing judicial education program for judges. The program aims to:
Enhance professional expertise;
Facilitate the development of judicial knowledge and skills;
Promote the pursuit of juristic excellence.
With a focus on interactive learning, the program is based on enhancing skills, attitudes and knowledge in a judicially relevant environment.
Sessions range from orientation programs for new judges and an annual conference to specialist seminars on practical matters, social awareness issues and legislative changes. The focus in education for District Court judges is on sentencing, important legal developments, improving knowledge in difficult areas of legal practice and procedure, and the development of judicial skills.
The Professional Development (Education) Committee, composed of judges and the Judicial Commission’s Education Director, develops each education program based on the identified needs of judges. Judges are involved in the development and delivery of the education program to ensure its relevance to the judicial role. A member of the Committee is also a member of the Judicial Commission’s Standing Advisory Committee on Judicial Education.
During 2012, judges:
Continued to receive focused and tailored training to meet their educational needs;
Attended 162 days of face-to-face judicial education organised by the Judicial Commission, an average of 2.3 days of judicial education per judge.
Activities Annual Conference
The Annual Conference held on the Central Coast on 10 – 11 April 2012 was attended by 49 judges, 1 acting judge, a judge from the District Court of New Zealand and the Judicial Registrar. The conference focused on providing challenging and interesting educational sessions, while also providing a valuable opportunity for discussion and debate. The program consisted primarily of sessions relevant to the day-to-day work of a judge. Topics for the conference were determined by the Education Committee based on previous evaluation reports, suggestions by colleagues and suggestions from the Judicial Commission. The sessions dealt with a variety of topics including substantive law and practice, ethics, sentencing issues, civil law topics, the relationship between gambling and offending, and Intensive Correction Orders. Topics included:
Court of Appeal Review by The Honourable Justice Margaret Beazley AO,NSW Court of Appeal;
Current Issues in Sentencing by Her Honour Judge Deborah Payne;
Are Courts Self-Serving? by Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre, Sydney;
Workcover Prosecutions by The Honourable Justice Stephen Rothman, AM, Supreme Court of NSW;
Court of Criminal Appeal Review by The Honourable Justice Robert A Hulme, Supreme Court of NSW;
Buildings by Her Honour Judge Elizabeth Olsson SC;
Medical Tribunals by Her Honour Judge Audrey Balla;
Impartiality and Disqualification by Her Honour Judge Dianne Truss;
Problem Gambling and its Relationship to Offending by Mr Anthony Sobb, Chairman and Founder, Oakdene House Foundation and Mr Tom Simpson, Education Officer, Oakdene House Foundation;
Intensive Correction Orders 12 Months On by Ms Rosemary Caruana, Assistant Commissioner, Community Offender Management, Corrective Services NSW;
Q & A: Everything you wanted to know but did not like to ask with a panel of judges consisting of The Honourable Justice Reg Blanch AM, His Honour Judge Ron Solomon, Her Honour Judge Dianne Truss and His Honour Judge Peter Berman SC.
The Education Committee has continued to work with the Judicial Commission to organise a series of twilight education sessions for District Court judges. These seminars provide useful, informative and timely information on a range of topical matters relevant to the work of the District Court. They aim to enhance judicial performance and assist in the further development of judicial skills and knowledge. Seminars were held on the following topics:
“Convention on Rights of the Child”, The Honourable Jennifer Boland AM, Twilight Seminar, 7 March 2012;
“Controlling the Court”, The Honourable Michael Campbell QC, Twilight Seminar, 20 March 2012;
“Cybercrime, Technology Trends and Electronic Evidence”, Mr Matthew Nevin, Project Manager eCourt and Prosecution Support, High Tech Crime Operations, Australian Federal Police, Twilight Seminar, 13 June 2012;
“Referring Matters to the Mental Health Review Tribunal”, Professor Dan Howard SC, President, Mental Health Review Tribunal and Ms Sarah Hanson, Forensic Team Leader, Twilight Seminar, 14 August 2012.
Judges also attended a number of cross-jurisdictional events, including:
“Advanced Judicial Writing”, Professor Bryan A Garner, Distinguished Research Professor of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law and President of Law Prose, Inc, 30 July 2012;
“Developments in Question Trails”, The Honourable Justice Rob Chambers, Supreme Court of NZ, The Honourable Justice Reg Blanch AM and The Honourable Justice Monika Schmidt, Twilight Seminar, 29 November 2012.
One new judge of the Court attended the National Judicial Orientation Program at Glenelg in May 2012 and two new judges attended the program held at Broadbeach in October/November 2012. This five-day orientation program assists newly appointed judicial officers with their transition to judicial office by facilitating the development and refinement of the skills and knowledge necessary for effective judging. It is conducted by the National Judicial College of Australia with the assistance of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales and the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration.
Ngara Yura Program
Judges continued to participate in the Judicial Commission’s Ngara Yura Program, which aims to increase awareness among judicial officers about contemporary Aboriginal society, customs and traditions, and their effect on Aboriginal people in the justice system. Judges participated in the following Ngara Yura Program events:
“Community Visit to Redfern”, 9 March 2012;
“Indigenous Peoples in International Law”, Professor Megan Davis, Expert Member, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Director, Indigenous Law Centre, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales, Twilight Seminar, 28 March 2012;
“Tribal Warrior Cultural Cruise”, Tribal Warrior Association, Field Trip, 13 October 2012.
New South Wales
Full statistical data on the Court’s civil operations is set out in Annexures A (1) and (2).
Registrations fell by less than 1%
Finalisations rose by 3%
Pending cases fell by 1%
Median finalisation time rose from 11.7 to 12.2 months
Comparing registrations and finalisations is not an exact science. For example, a matter in the course of its life may, for various reasons, be registered more than once. Multiple parties and cross actions can further affect the equation. Cases determined at arbitration can be re-heard. A matter previously dismissed can be restored or a retrial may be ordered. Registries also conduct stock-takes of cases on hand during the course of the year, with pending statistics being adjusted as necessary.
It is therefore important to view comparisons of registrations and finalisations against pending caseload with some caution, as it is often difficult to reconcile the figures. However, they are helpful in providing general trends concerning the incoming and outgoing work of the Court.
There were 4,849 matters registered in 2012, compared to 4,844 in 2011.
There were 4,956 matters finalised in 2012, compared to 4,822 in 2011.
At the end of 2012 the pending caseload was 5,629, compared to 5,712 in 2011.
Comparison with Previous Years
Figure 1 below tracks the Court’s caseload for the past 5 years.
In 2012, 50% of all actions finalised were completed within 12 months, with 88% being completed within 24 months. This compares to 52% and 87%, respectively, in 2011.
Of the pending caseload at the end of 2012, 17% exceeded 12 months and not more than 24 months and 5% more than 24 months.
Registrations fell by 4%
Finalisations rose by 1%
Pending cases fell by 5%
Median finalisation time fell from 11.7 to 10.8 months
In 2012, Sydney civil case managed matters represented 67% of the State’s registrations and 68% of the matters on hand.
Figure 2 below shows the ratio of new civil actions commencing in Sydney, as compared to the whole State for the past 5 years.
Registrations, Finalisations and Pending
Excluding the Residual Jurisdiction, there were 3,225 new actions registered and 3,393 finalised in Sydney in 2012. At the end of the year there were 3,824 actions pending. Figure 3 tracks Sydney’s caseload for the last five years.
The Court’s ideal time standard for civil cases is to achieve a 90% finalisation rate within 12 months of commencement, and 100% within 2 years.
In 2012, 52% of all actions finalised were completed within 12 months, with 88% being completed within 24 months. This compares to 52% and 86%, respectively in 2011.
Of the pending caseload at the end of 2012, 17% exceeded 12 months and not more than 24 months and 5% exceeded 24 months.
How Cases are Finalised
Table 1 below shows the breakup of how case managed list matters were finalised in 2012. The categories of “Dismissed” and “Discontinued” include matters that settled without judgment being entered and/or terms of settlement being filed.
Table 2 below compares two of the seven categories of finalised outcomes as against the total number of finalised outcomes. These two categories are selected because i. ‘Finalised following trial’ represents the number of hearings to judgment before judges, and ii. “Finalised by settlement filed” includes matters that settled as a result of ADR.
The Compensation Court Repeal Act 2002 abolished the Compensation Court, and transferred the Compensation Court’s jurisdiction to the Workers Compensation Commission or the District Court. The Act commenced on 1 January 2004.
The disputes that were transferred to the District Court are commonly referred as its “residual jurisdiction” and involve the following:
The Police Act 1990 concerning police officers “hurt on duty” and the Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act 1906 concerning the payment of superannuation benefits to police officers;
Payment under the Police Regulations (Superannuation) Act 1906, paid to STC (the SAS Trustee Corporation continued under the Superannuation Administration Act 1996) and special risk benefits payable by the Commissioner of Police;
The Workers’ Compensation Act 1987 concerning workers in or about a coal mine;
The Workers Compensation (Dust Diseases) Act 1942;
During 2012, 354 actions were commenced and 310 were finalised. There were a total of 191 matters on hand in the residual jurisdiction at the end of 2012.
Sydney West had 4% of the total number of new actions started in the State in 2012 (excluding the Court’s residual jurisdiction). Figure 4 below tracks the variation in the proportional rate of registrations in Sydney West.
In Sydney West there were 198 matters registered and 212 finalisations throughout the year. At the end of 2012 the total pending caseload was 237, as compared to 235 the previous year.
Figure 5 shows comparative registrations, finalisations and pending caseloads for the past 5 years.
Pending matters in Sydney West rose by 1% and the median finalisation time was 11.3 months.
18% of pending cases exceeded 12 months and not more than 24 months and 6% exceeded 24 months.
Venues outside of Sydney and Sydney West had 22% of the total number of new actions started in 2012 (excluding the Court’s Residual Jurisdiction).
Figure 6 tracks the proportional rate of registrations for Country venues.
Outside of Sydney and Sydney West, there were 1,041 finalisations throughout the year. At the end of the year the total pending caseload was 1,377 as compared to 1,323 the previous year.
Figure 7 shows comparative registrations, finalisations and pending caseloads for the past 5 years.
Pending matters in the country rose by 4% and the median finalisation time was 12.8 months.
19% of pending cases exceeded 12 months and not more than 24 months and 7% exceeded 24 months.
Registrations rose by 19%
Finalisations fell by less than 1%
Pending trials rose by 34%
Median finalisation time remained steady at 38 weeks
Average length of trials fell from8.79 to 8.71 days
There were 1,876 criminal trials registered during 2012 in New South Wales, as compared to 1,576 in 2011 and 1,650 in2010.
There were 1,532 trials finalised in 2012,as compared to 1,534 in 2011 and 1,618 in 2010.
There were 1,363 trials on hand at the end of 2012, as compared to 1,019 trials at the end of 2011.
Figure 8 tracks the state wide trends in the criminal trial caseload for the past 5 years.
Figure 9 shows variation in trial and sentence registrations for the last 5 years.
Sentence hearings are far less demanding on victims. They also absorb far less resources than trials. It is therefore important to ensure that in appropriate cases guilty pleas are entered at the earliest possible time, preferably at the committal stage.
The Court’s ideal time standards for the commencement of criminal trials are:
90% of cases within 4 months of committal, or such other event which causes the proceedings; and
100% of cases within 1 year.
In 2012, 28% of trial finalisations where the accused was in custody were finalised within 4 months, and 12% exceeded12 months. Where the accused was on bail, 16% of finalisations occurred within 4 months, with 17% exceeding 12 months.
Figure 10 sets out comparative compliance rates with time standards for all trials finalised.
Figure 11 shows the age of all trials which were pending at the end of the year indicated.
Figure 12 tracks the median finalisation times, from committal to commencement of the trial, for matters finalised during the year indicated.
The state wide average length of criminal trials finalised in 2012 was 8.71 days, as compared to 8.79 days in 2011. In Sydney the average duration was 10.98 days in 2012, compared to 11.62 days in 2011.
Figure 13 illustrates the fluctuating rise in the average trial duration time.
Trial Listing Outcomes
About 2,078 trials were listed for hearing in 2012. Figure 14 shows the breakup of those matters not dealt with.
Figure 15 shows the break-up of those matters that were dealt with after being listed.
Figure 16 shows the outcome of those that commenced.
Table 3. Trial Listing Outcomes
The following table sets out trial listing outcomes for 2012.
Of trials dealt with in 2012 (i.e. 73% of total listings):
35% pleaded Guilty
46% proceeded to verdict
8% were “no billed”
2% were transferred
3% were aborted
2% ended with a “hung Jury”
3% were otherwise disposed
1% had bench warrants issued
There were 1,691 committals for sentence received in 2012 and 1,876 matters finalised. At the end of the year there were 728 sentence matters pending, compared to 637 at the end of 2011.
Figure 17 tracks the sentence caseload for the last 5 years.
The ideal time standard from committal for sentence to hearing is 3 months in 90% of cases, with 100% being completed within 6months.
Figure 18 illustrates compliance rates with time standards.
There were 1,487 conviction appeals lodged in 2012 and 1,529 finalisations. At the end of the year there were 480 conviction appeals pending, compared to 522 at the end of 2011.
Figure 19 tracks the conviction appeal caseload for the last 5 years.
The ideal time standard from lodgement to finalisation is 4 months in 90% of cases, with 100% being completed within 12 months.
Figure 20 illustrates compliance rates with time standards.
There were 5,065 sentence appeals lodged in 2012 and 5,049 finalised. At the end of the year there were 815 sentence appeals pending, compared to 799 at the end of 2011.
Figure 21 tracks the sentence appeals caseload for the last 5 years.
The ideal time standard from lodgement to finalisation for sentence appeals is 2 months in 90% of cases, with 100% being completed within 6 months.
Figure 22 illustrates compliance rates with time standards.
Table 4 sets out the number of judicial sitting weeks allocated in 2012 as published in the Court’s Calendar of Sittings.
Judge EFT is calculated at 40.6 sitting weeks p.a. – i.e.52 weeks less judicial vacations, public holidays and Annual Judges’ Conference
Table 5 sets out the number of days actually sat by the court in 2012 converted into weeks (by dividing the number of days by 5)
Judge EFT is calculated at 40.6 sitting weeks p.a. – i.e. 52 weeks less judicial vacations, public holidays and Annual Judges’ Conference
Comparisons With 2011
Overall, there was an increase of 2 weeks for sittings in 2012 compared to 2011. This included 26 extra weeks in criminal sittings and 24 fewer weeks in civil sittings.
The increase in sittings was due to an increase in pending workload as a result of additional criminal weeks added to Sydney West to finalise pending Commonwealth People Smuggler trials.
Acting Judges provided an extra 427 days of actual sitting. Based on the maximum of 40.6 sitting weeks per year for a permanent judge, this equated to 2.1 additional judges.
Figure 23 below shows the fluctuations in the number of Acting Judge weeks attained since 2008.
The final table sets out the allocated, available and actual sittings at all venues, as well as the average daily recorded sitting hours.
Annexures A – Civil Caseload
Annexure A1 - Civil Caseload
Annexure A2 - Civil Finalisation Times
Annexures B – Criminal Caseload
Annexure B1 - Criminal Caseload
Annexure B2 - Criminal Caseload
Annexure B3 - Criminal Caseload
Annexure B4 - Criminal Caseload
Annexure C – Compliance with Criminal Time Standards
Annexure C1 - Compliance with Criminal Time standards
Annexure C2 - Compliance with Criminal Time standards
Annexure C3 - Compliance with Criminal Time Standards
Annexure D – Court Committees
Annexure D - District Court Committees
Chief Judge’s Policy and Planning Committee
The Honourable Justice Blanch AM, Chief Judge (Chairperson)
His Honour Judge Solomon (ex officio as Chair, Criminal Business Committee)
Her Honour Judge Truss (ex officio as Chair, Civil Business Committee)
Her Honour Judge Ashford (ex officio as Chair, Professional Development Education Committee)
His Honour Judge Neilson
Her Honour Judge Gibb
His Honour Judge Blackmore SC
His Honour Judge Lakatos SC
His Honour Judge Letherbarrow SC
Her Honour Judge Woodburne SC
Her Honour Judge Huggett
Mr J Howard, Judicial Registrar (Secretary)
The Honourable Justice Blanch AM, Chief Judge (Chairperson)