Criminal matters ‘ease’ but SEQ needs more attention

Although criminal matters lodged in the District Court of Queensland “eased somewhat” during 2022-2023, Chief Judge Brian Devereaux SC noted in the annual report that the south-east corner warrants further attention.

The 2022-2023 Annual Report of the District Court of Queensland was tabled in Parliament last week and showed a slight decrease in Brisbane (-3.6 per cent), and a bigger decrease (-9 per cent) in the rest of the State.

“The result for the whole of Queensland was 7 per cent less than 2022/2023 but still 8 per cent higher than 2021/2022,” Chief Judge Devereaux said in his overview.

“This was consistent with the passing of the post-COVID wave of outstanding matters awaiting committal to the Court from the Magistrates Court. Yet there was an increase in the number of trials conducted and an increase in the average trial length, from 3.4 days to 3.6 days.

“The Court received 3867 civil lodgements, an increase of 8.2 per cent on the previous year. The P&E Court received 330 lodgements, about 13 per cent less than the previous year.

“The CCQ lodgements increased by 13 per cent on the previous year. The District Court of Queensland remains one of the largest and busiest of the higher courts in Australia.”


And the Chief Judge again called attention to the SEQ case load.

“In last year’s annual report, I commented that although the south-east corner is not the only growth area in the State, it demands attention … the criminal lodgements at Beenleigh, which houses only one court room fit for a jury trial and one small court room suitable only for applications or sentencing, are close to the lodgements at regional centres, where there are two resident judges,” he said.

“The Court is increasingly concerned about the inevitable rising backlog of cases the present circumstances cause.

“Transferring matters to Brisbane removes them from the community in which the events occurred, increases the stress on the Court at Brisbane, tends to disenfranchise potential jurors who would have been involved in a trial at Beenleigh, and adds to the travel costs and inconvenience of interested parties and witnesses.”

Chief Judge Devereaux noted that a civil case management system was implemented in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“Significant progress was made in development of a civil case management system for the Magistrates Courts but a paperless system for filing documents and having them available to a judge in court is some way off for the Supreme and District Courts,” he said.


There is one exception this, Judge Devereaux noted – the Planning and Environment Court.

“Since 2013, all active P&E Court files originating in Brisbane, Southport, Maroochydore, Townsville and Cairns have been accessible through the Queensland Courts website eCourts facility,” he said.

There were few movements in Court personnel, such as the appointments of Judge Catherine Muir and Judge Nicholas Andreatidis KC. Judge Orazio Rinaudo AM, who was appointed to the Court on 8 July 2014, retired on 2 June 2023.

Chief Judge Devereaux said the general health of the Court “received a boost when, late in the year under review, the Executive announced funding for three additional judges to the Court”.

“The judges gratefully acknowledge the significant addition to the complement of the Court.

“It will have a positive effect on the Court’s capacity to deliver timely access to justice for the Queensland community in all of the Court’s districts, and it is hoped that the increase will mitigate the effects on judicial well-being of the unsustainable workloads judges have borne.”


View the annual report here

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