DENIED JUSTICE: How women are put at risk in Bundy courts
JUSTICE experts are pushing for more funding to stop vulnerable Bundaberg residents falling through the legal cracks.
Bundaberg Magistrates Court handled 6407 criminal and civil cases last financial year, the Magistrates Courts of Queensland Annual Report shows.
A total of 3369 adult defendants and 292 children faced 7069 charges in 2016-17.
Magistrates also dealt with 562 breaches of bail, probation and suspended sentences; 924 civil claims, 965 domestic and family violence order cases; and 295 child protection order actions.
The State Government needed to invest more money in community and low-cost legal services, said Bill Potts, whose firm represents clients in our region.
"We build bridges, we build roads, we build tunnels but why don't we spend that kind of money on the justice system?" the deputy president of the Queensland Law Society said.
"We have people being denied justice - they are being convicted or they can't appeal properly because they are being denied access to a system that favours those who have the resources for representation."
Women's Legal Service Queensland echoed Mr Potts's call, saying WLSQ's telephone support service often received calls from regional and rural women in legal crisis without enough money to hire lawyers.
"There are a lot of women who are self-representing in domestic violence hearings and because many are respondents (accused of DV) they often do not get Legal Aid," WLSQ's principal solicitor, Rachel Neil said.
"Challenges include preparing paperwork for court, navigating the court system and also having to cross-examine perpetrators of violence at hearings.
"Subpoenaing Child Safety records or police records is extremely complex as well and they have to apply for documents to be delivered to the courts and that can be tricky."
The Queensland Government said it had invested millions in rolling out specialist courts and resourcing support services.
This included providing $85.1 million for Legal Aid and passing on Federal Government funding to community legal centres, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Yvette D'Ath said.
Taylor Street Community Legal Service provides limited legal services in Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and Gympie.
The News-Mail asked TSCLS for comment but a spokesperson said the organisation was unable to address the issues.
Court has one of the best clearance rates
THE Bundaberg District Court has one of the state's best clearance rates.
A total of 95 new defendants faced the court last financial year and 114 cases were finalised.
There are 25 cases still active from previous years.
The 2016-17 District Court of Queensland Annual Report shows the court has a 120 per cent clearance rate which is higher than Cairns, Maroochydore and Southport.
The Bundaberg Supreme Court dealt with nine new cases in 2016-17 and finalised 13.
It still has four active cases from previous years and a clearance rate of 144 per cent.
In her annual report to parliament, Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine Holmes said case backlogs showed there was a need for more judicial officers to be appointed.
"The inability to reduce the active pending matters ... highlights the need for additional judicial resources to meet the increasing demand," Justice Holmes said.
Queensland Law Society deputy president Bill Potts called on the State Government to appoint five more district court judges, three more supreme court justices and 10 more magistrates.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Yvette D'Ath said the Attorney General would "continue to work with" Chief Justice Holmes and the District Court of Queensland chief judge and the chief magistrate on resource allocations. - NewsRegional
BY THE NUMBERS
Bundaberg Magistrate Court 2016-17 performance:
Adult defendants - 3369
Adult charges - 6330
Child defendants - 292
Child charges - 739
Breaches of bail and court orders - 562
Domestic and family violence orders - 965
Child protection orders - 295
Civil cases - 924
Source: Queensland Government