Attorney-General brushes off courthouse criticism

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman

The NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has responded to criticism that courthouse services in regional areas, particularly in Tumut and Temora, are becoming unacceptable due to cost cutting.

Recently retired Cootamundra-circuit magistrate Peter Dare blasted the state government earlier this year for whittling away court services over time, with local courthouses including the Tumut courthouse being frequently closed and leaving residents with inadequate services.

However, Mr Speakman does not believe there is a problem.

“I am advised there are no plans to close courthouses in the Riverina, nor are there plans to change court sittings or registry hours at Temora, Junee or Tumut in 2017,” he said.

“At smaller locations the registry may be closed outside court sitting days when the registrar is on leave. During these times, arrangements are made to direct clients to alternative sources of assistance.”

However, Shadow Attorney-General Paul Lynch believes accepting this state of affairs isn’t good enough.

“The Attorney-General just seems to be stonewalling, hoping the issue will go away,” he said.

“It won’t.”

Mr Lynch has taken up the case of regional courthouse cost-cutting in state parliament, saying that the governing Liberal Party has cut local courthouse funding since coming to power, driven by the bottom line and not community need.

He was alerted to the issue locally by Magistrate Dare’s comments in the Tumut and Adelong Times, with the magistrate saying that since he was retiring he could finally be honest about his feelings towards cost-cutting this vital service.