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NSW: Magistrates told to speed up domestic violence cases  

NSW: Magistrates told to speed up domestic violence cases
16 May 2008 | AAP.

SYDNEY, May 16 AAP - Magistrates across NSW have been told that defendants accused of domestic violence should be given less time to enter a plea.

NSW Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson has issued a practice notice to magistrates, which sets out measures designed to speed up domestic violence cases brought before the courts.

The aim is to reduce the opportunity for delaying tactics and cut the amount of time from a charge to a hearing before a magistrate to less than three months.

in the notice,Magistrate Henson said
The court may require the accused person to enter a plea at the first time the matter is mentioned in court.

If no plea can be entered at that time, the court will allow an adjournment of not more than seven days for a plea to be entered.
The practice note came into force in local courts in Sydney's Sutherland Shire and Campbelltown in late March, and courts in Penrith, Blacktown and Mount Druitt followed last month.

Courts in Albury, Forster, Batemans Bay and Bega will follow later this month.

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos announced the move today, saying an earlier trial of the seven-day plea provision had cut court times and increased the number of guilty pleas in domestic violence cases before Campbelltown and Wagga Wagga courts.

The median number of court days dropped from 120 to 56 during the trial, while the number of early domestic violence guilty pleas increased by more than 65 per cent.

In a statement today, NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said
This approach effectively halved the time a domestic violence matter took at court and dramatically increased the number of guilty pleas.

This is a fantastic result and will go a long way to reducing the stress of domestic violence victims by targeting delaying tactics by the accused
Mr Hatzistergos said the chief magistrate's move also complemented new laws introduced in March, which created a specific offence for domestic violence.
The Secretary SPCA said
Unfortunately NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos is misguided in his euphoria around increasing the number of guilty pleas.

He should spend some time in the courts and see the large number of blokes who plead guilty simply because they are so traumatised after having been thrown out of the family home by Police interventions. Many fathers who get involved in these issues are worn down by the Police prosecution, usually pleading guilty to try and put an end to the protracted case where they do not have the ability to be represented either through financial circumstances or are simply unable to take time off work to attend the hearings. Many simply want to get the matter over with rather than put up any argument or defence in a hostile court environment.

We are aware of a number of cases in fact, where the wrong party has been charged by the Police yet once charged it is a downward spiral into a guilty plea. Many of these cases are not simple. In NSW the Attorney-General John Hatzistergos supported a bill, passing into law recently, that in the "Objects Section" states that "domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women and children".

What hope have men got in these traumatic situations, many are accused on the most flimsy of evidence and now the Minister wants to force more early guilty pleas. To rub it in further the local courts provide "women only" rooms for a cuppa, counselling and instruction area from the Police Prosecuters prior to a hearing. No such support for blokes.

If you are a bloke in NSW you might as well plead guilty, before the Police even arrive to any incident, because you will have little hope in expecting a "Fair Go" in court after this direction.

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