Court Delays

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SpeakersArmstrong Mr Ian
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 10218

    Mr ARMSTRONG (Lachlan) [5.20 p.m.]: I wish to raise a matter today that I hope comes to the attention of both the Attorney General and the Minister for Police, as well as members of this Parliament and the public of New South Wales. This week the Premier is claiming credit for the nickel and cobalt mine at Fyfield that he announced with great gusto for the big end of town—though I am not too sure whether he actually put the nickel and cobalt there to allow the mine to go ahead. Let us come back to the people and get away from the dreamtime. In April 1997—some three years ago—in the town of Young a Mr Tyler was charged with dealing in drugs after he was arrested on a farmer's property. He had been working for the farmer. He appeared before the court in Young in January 1998, and the police prosecution brought, at the State's expense, 22 witnesses from many parts of New South Wales. For two days they sat around the court and not one of them was called to give evidence.

    The Young court sat a second time and on that occasion some six witnesses were brought to Young. Again, none were called. So, within 14 or 15 months, 28 people were transported to Young but not one of them has been able to give evidence in this case. That was in 1997 and 1998. At a hearing in the court in Young eight months ago the defence lawyers objected to the witnesses to be presented by the prosecution. The case was adjourned, as the judge needed time to consider the objection. Again we have the spectre of witnesses being brought from all over New South Wales, as well as the court attendants and the police, expecting that the case against this gentleman—who is now nearly four years older than he was when he was arrested—would be processed.

    The matter is listed again in December in Sydney. No doubt some, if not all, of those witnesses will be brought again to Sydney for the hearing. By any standards, that is an unacceptable chronology. Obviously there has been a major lack of organisation, which has caused considerable expense, and if that were to apply to every case in the State the courts would be held in far less esteem than they are now. I have another point to make. As is the case with many country towns, Young does have some drug problems, particularly with marijuana and, allegedly, with some harder drugs. What is to inhibit a person who has been arrested in 1997 and who has come before the court on three occasions because the court cannot get its act together, from continuing to trade in drugs? It is not up to me to say whether this person was trading in drugs, but we can certainly agree that nothing has occurred since he was arrested that would inhibit his desire to trade if he wished to.

    The legal system has always had two responsibilities. One is to penalise those who transgress against the laws of the land. The second is to ensure that the penalties imposed on those who do transgress are seen as warnings to the rest of the community. The example I have given tonight is in no way a warning to others in the community that their lives will be inhibited if they are charged with trading in drugs. So, I hope the Minister for Police and the Attorney General—and perhaps the Premier himself, but let us stick with the two law enforcers in this Parliament—will take note of this case, which, I suspect, is not far from the norm, and try to rectify the situation.