Unfair: our outdated court facilities put victims of crime at risk

Photo of author


Our region is Sydney’s heart, where real lives are lived, and our people are entitled to the same justice as our friends in the east, argues Campbelltown Mayor GEORGE GREISS, who in this opinion piece calls on all sides of politics to step up and recognise that.

After years of waiting for legal matters to be heard, facilities so outdated that people who use wheelchairs are unable to serve on juries, and lack of security for victims of crime and witnesses, South West Sydney continues to be denied the court upgrades that would bring our services on par with those in eastern Sydney.

Campbelltown is the legal hub for South Western Sydney, providing Local and District courts for the fastest growing region in Australia. It also hosts a Children’s Court, otherwise only found in Surry Hills and Parramatta.

But unlike the east, the courts found in Campbelltown are outdated, inaccessible and inadequate.

Campbelltown’s District and Local court complex has a single public access point used by alleged offenders and victims alike, presenting safety issues for vulnerable people.

Campbelltown’s Children’s Court has no safe room, no private rooms for families to consult with social workers to discuss highly sensitive issues, and no comfortable spaces for children to wait for their matters to be heard; only an overcrowded waiting room or a courtyard with no security.

We can no longer accept our usual lot, we can no longer accept being treated as second-class citizens, especially when it comes to our access to the justice system.

In 2020-21 Sydney’s West (including Campbelltown, Penrith and Parramatta) had the lowest trial finalisation rate for all NSW Courts, with only 39 percent of all trials reaching a verdict within 12 months.

Across Sydney, innocent children are spending an average of 198 nights in prison on remand due to court delays before being found not guilty of all charges.

An upgrade to our courts would drastically improve those shocking statistics and ensure innocent children are released back to their families and carers as soon as possible.

Fifty kilometres away, Macquarie Street has promised improvement, partnering with us in a three-tier-funded masterplan for a Community and Justice Precinct in Campbelltown CBD.

We advocated for a significant increase in the court capacity and the development of purpose-built facilities.
Facilities that have modern accessibility standards that enable protection for vulnerable witnesses and victims of violence.

Facilities that will enable safe rooms and rooms for families to be treated with dignity.

Facilities that will enable people of all physical abilities to serve on a jury, in contrast to the existing facilities that does not enable people using wheelchairs to serve on a jury as there are no lifts in jury-only areas.

Campbelltown City Council worked cooperatively with the Federal and NSW Governments to finalise a strategic business case for the precinct by May 2021. However, since then there has been no commitment from either government to invest in the new court infrastructure that South Western Sydney needs.

Stagnation and competing priorities have meant that our justice is once again being delayed.

While we continue to work and invest in developing the master plan for the promised development, committing $2.4million on informing our investment in the Precinct and undertaking comprehensive consultation with the community on the plan, the lack of commitment for court infrastructure from either government to date, I’m sorry to say, has been disappointing.

With an election in March, I’m calling on all contenders for the NSW government to commit to funding the court redevelopment that would underpin the Community and Justice Precinct and deliver swifter justice in South West Sydney.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Swift justice is essential for everyone involved in the legal system.

Alleged victims have been left in limbo with matters unresolved for years. With 70 percent of the young people in custody awaiting their day in court, unnecessary delays compound life-long social issues for these children.

Leave a Comment