SYDNEY WEST TRIAL COURT COMPLEX
The Hon. HELEN WESTWOOD:
My question is addressed to the Attorney General. Will the Attorney General inform the House about the latest developments in court facilities available for the conduct of major trials in New South Wales?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
In February this year the New South Wales Government opened the Sydney West Trial Court Complex, which is the final building in the $330 million Parramatta Justice Precinct. The Government delivered the Justice Precinct—a major piece of infrastructure for Western Sydney and the third largest in Australia—on budget and ahead of time. It includes a Children's Court, a Justice Precinct office building, and the $92.5 million Sydney West Trial Court Complex. The Sydney West Trial Court is a state-of-the-art high-security complex, with 10 courtrooms designed to house the trials of the most dangerous and high-risk offenders.
The courts are protected by the Security Operations Centre, which acts as a sentinel over the tightly controlled movement of defendants between cells, courts and transports. With more than 500 closed-circuit cameras in the precinct, no movement escapes the watchful eye of law enforcement agencies. The first proceedings in the new court are the trial of the Baladjam nine on terrorism offences. I understand that defence counsel for the alleged terrorists have protested about the new facilities. In his recent judgement on their application to change the venue, Justice Whealy rejected their claims and stated:
No other Court complex in New South Wales provides, so far as I am aware, facilities of this level and standard to defence counsel appearing in one multi-accused trial. Indeed, there would be no court complex anywhere in the State offering this level of facility.
Justice Whealy has also emphasised the resources available to defence counsel, and stated:
On level 2, there is a very large area which provides facilities for defence counsel using the complex generally. This has, however, been given over entirely to the defence counsel in the present trial for the duration of the trial. It is a very large area There are nine offices, a number of defence workstations, interview areas and a general range of amenities.
The facilities available to the defence have embarrassed them into going back on their earlier claims. Justice Whealy stated:
Not surprisingly the anticipatory submissions querying the suitability of the proposed complex for defence counsel have, in effect, been abandoned in the present change of venue application.
It is hard to understand why the Member for Epping backed the calls of defence lawyers who acted for the alleged terrorists to move the trial to the basement of the Downing Centre. On 25 February on radio 2GB he said:
I don't know why they insisted in having this trial out at Parramatta there are courtrooms in the city such as in the basement of the Downing Centre
Justice Whealy responded to that suggestion and said:
The multi-accused Court at the Downing Centre was rejected because the courtroom shape and design could not accommodate even thirty legal representatives at Bar tables.
I wonder whether the member for Epping has even visited the new courtrooms at Parramatta. On 23 February on radio 2GB he admitted that the primary reason for asking for the change of venue was:
They've forced these lawyers and the accused to go to Parramatta for this trial despite their wishes to have it in the city.
While the Opposition believes in trying to ensure that the legal representatives do not have to drive too far to work each morning the Government has had to consider far more important matters at the Sydney West Trial Court Complex. The claims of the Member for Epping about the delivery of the complex were without foundation. On 24 February 2008 on radio 2UE he said:
So what can they build? Can they build a sand castle?
Perhaps he should wonder why Justice Whealy refused the application for a change of venue on 18 March 2008 describing the court complex as "extremely impressive".