Simon Corbell’s proposal for a new ‘virtual court’ seems to have ruffled more than a few feathers of our resident legal eagles. Both the ACT Bar Association and some individual barristers have really worked themselves up into quite a lather.
Why this should be so is a little beyond me. I suspect that behind the Bar’s outrage, it and some of its members are somewhat miffed because the ACT Government has refused to appoint a fifth judge to the Supreme Court, thus denying some of its more ambitious members the opportunity to park their posteriors on the Bench.
The Law Society has yet to declare its hand but it seems likely to get into bed with the Bar.
What both learned friends and their professional associations conveniently overlook is the cost of a 5th judge. Government figures put this at around $850,000 per annum – hardly the sort of stuff that grows on trees when legal welfare groups are crying out for increased funding.
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It’s well settled that the workload of the Supreme Court has increased in recent years, particularly in its criminal jurisdiction. It’s also well settled that something needs to be done to reduce delays and improve access to justice. But at what cost?
The additional funding for the new virtual court is estimated at some $275,00 per annum. This represents a saving of some $575K per annum – plus a few bruised egos in Blackburn Chambers.