This paper has been prepared by the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety as part of an initiative to improve access to justice in the Territory.
Workload pressures in the Supreme Court have highlighted a gap in the ACT justice system. Unlike most Australian jurisdictions, the ACT has no intermediate court. Much of the work currently undertaken in the ACT Supreme Court would occur in the intermediate district or county court in jurisdictions such as New South Wales and Victoria.
In response to the gap between judicial resources and case load in the Supreme Court, the ACT Government proposes to establish an intermediate criminal jurisdiction in the ACT, in the form of a “virtual District Court” jurisdiction. The jurisdiction will be presided over by judicial officers holding dual commissions. It will be supported by the existing registry and administrative resources of the ACT Courts and will sit in the existing court buildings. This is a tangible first step in streamlining the jurisdiction of the courts. In this way, the people of the ACT will gain the benefits of a more developed court system adapted to the needs of cases at all levels, without the administrative costs and rigidities of establishing separate courts.
In the 2010-11 Budget, the Government announced funding for initiatives to support the creation of a “virtual District Court” jurisdiction.
This paper outlines the Government’s proposal and seeks the views of the ACT community. After consultation, the Government would propose to legislate to advance this matter in the Spring 2010 session of the Legislative Assembly.