Wait times in Perth courts – delays due to Covid-19

Wait times for trials in Perth courts have unfortunately increased significantly because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Not too long ago, working as a criminal lawyer in Perth you could get a case listed for trial in the District Court within a year or so of being charged. This was something that Perth courts and governments were proud of and put significant resources into maintaining. Largely because delays in listing trials delays justice both for accused persons and for complainants.

Today, cases already in the District Court at the trial listing hearing stage are being listed for trial over a year in advance, towards the end of 2022. These are cases which have already gone through on average 9 months of pre-trial hearings in the Perth Magistrates Court. Delays appear to be slightly less in the Supreme Court.

This was identified as an issue as far back as 2014 and 2016 but has resurfaced recently with the unfortunate COVID-19 crisis.

There have been multiple shutdowns of the court system due to lockdowns. This caused the adjournment of a large number of listed trials and placed considerable pressure on an already struggling system. There appears to be no end to the backlog in sight.

For accused persons on bail, this means a long, drawn-out and anxious wait to clear their name. This includes having their ‘pending’ charges show up on a national police clearance certificate for the entire time they remain on bail, making many persons effectively unemployable while the court proceedings drag out. For persons in custody, this means a long uncertain wait in custody on remand.

What do the long wait times mean for accused persons?

The current significant delay to trial emphasises the importance of obtaining bail at the pre-trial stage. Accused persons who are ultimately acquitted can spend up to two years in custody on remand without ever being convicted of anything. This is a grave injustice. There is no compensation in the District or Supreme Courts for persons who are held in custody on remand but ultimately acquitted. If you are charged in the Magistrates Court, there is a shorter wait to trial and you might get some of your court costs back, but this is cold comfort for the loss of a significant period of time which can never be recovered.

If you or a loved one have been refused bail and are facing a long wait to trial, don’t hesitate to contact James Jackson Criminal Defence for help. We can assist you to present a persuasive case for bail and prevent you losing years of your life on charges you aren’t ever convicted of.


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