Court logjam fears

BRIGID SIMEONI

INCREASING pressure to speed up court cases is putting defendants' rights at risk, according to Ipswich defence lawyer Tim Meehan. With recent reports about a logjam of cases in Queensland courts, Mr Meehan said some courts seemed to be hurrying cases, to the detriment of a defendant's ability to prepare their defence. "It's just cutting corners and not allowing justice," he said. Mr Meehan, of Ryan and Bosscher Lawyers, noted a recent case in which he requested a psychiatric report for his client, a process that usually took three months. "The court decided it should happen within a month ? how realistic is that with Christmas upon us? In the end we were given until mid-January, which is still unrealistic," he said. He said adjournments requested for proper reasons should be given so a defendant, who risked losing their liberty, could adequately prepare their case. "People should look at an accused person as having the highest stakes," he said. "We have to stop looking at justice as a numbers game and really embrace the fact we have a presumption of innocence and make sure it's not being eroded to get things in and out of court." There needed to be some balance and more magistrates and judges to handle the caseload fairly and efficiently, he said. "The courts obviously want to get through the caseload but it should not be at the expense of a defendant's rights or the quality of the justice system."



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