There has been considerable focus in recent times about delays in the Criminal Justice System. All parties play an important role in delivering justice. Victims are entitled to efficient justice and an accused is also anxious to know his or her fate.
Many matters are dealt with by Police Prosecutors in the Magistrates Court. In my view, the delays are not significant in these types of matters. However, many serious matters have to be finalised in the Supreme or District Court of South Australia. Before a matter proceeds to the superior court, the Magistrates Court must hold a Committal process. At that stage, the court looks at the evidence and takes all reasonable inferences at the highest for the prosecution. Credit is not normally considered at this point and the test is really whether the elements of the offence have been made out or not.
There are significant pressures on an accused. Many recent changes to legislation continually make it harder for an accused to receive a sentence other than actual imprisonment. The system is supposed to encourage an early guilty plea where a person can receive up to 40 per cent discount for an early plea. However, if as defence lawyers we are simply advising a client that they will still likely go to gaol, then the incentive is not always there.
Many accused like to know what the case is against them. They can still receive 30% discount if they plead guilty before being sent to the District or Supreme Court. It is at this stage the delays are occurring. Many cases now rely upon CCTV footage, phone records, DNA evidence and other computer or phone evidence. The delays in these matters are significant. They are not properly resourced and have not kept pace with technology. Police are under stress and the prosecution are under pressure. A forgotten participant is the accused who in my view is entitled to view the evidence against them before committing to a course. The state brings the prosecution with the resources of the state against the individual. Pressure for an early guilty plea to clear the backlog should not come at the cost of justice. At Woods and Co, we protect your rights.