Removal of Depositions Hearings

( The removal of depositions hearings in courts is having positive impacts for court users, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

The change to the committal process took effect on June 29 last year to improve efficiency and fairness in the criminal justice system.

It means that rather than cases automatically progressing to a depositions hearing where evidence is heard orally, committal for trial is now determined on the basis of written statements, unless a successful application for oral evidence is made.

This has occurred in only 3 per cent of cases since the law came into effect.

“The law change has resulted in an average of six weeks being cut from the time it takes from the day charges are laid to when a case is committed for trial,” Mr Power said.

“Previously it took about 100 days for committal to trial – it’s now around 60.

“In 2008/09 only 14 per cent of cases in the High Court were committed to trial within three months. This year that figure has risen to 47 per cent.

“This means that in most cases, evidence is now being given only once, sparing victims from being re-victimised by having to give evidence at depositions and again at trial.

“It’s too soon to predict the full effect of removing depositions on the overall length of a trial, but I’m encouraged by the early results.

“I recognise that in the short term the removal of depositions has resulted in an increase in the number of active jury trials.

“However, this is in line with forecasts and is expected to eventually level out. Furthermore, many cases are still expected to be resolved before their scheduled trial date.

“The Government is continuing work on the Criminal Procedure Simplification Project which is designed to speed up the process to deliver timely justice to victims, witnesses, defendants, and the community.”

Media Release 11 April 2010 from Hon Simon Power, Minister of Justice.
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