NEWCASTLE COURTHOUSE STAFFING
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER:
I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General. What is the Attorney General's response to Newcastle District Court Judge Ralph Coolahan being forced to tell a jury yesterday he could not ensure their safety during a sexual assault trial? Is the Attorney aware this disclosure was apparently made because of staff shortages and comes just a week after Corrective Services officers walked off the job and held a stop-work meeting because minimum staffing levels were not being met in the courthouse cells? Does the Attorney General have any plans to improve security in Newcastle and ensure the New South Wales Sheriff's Office is able to provide adequate staff at the trials before that court?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
The community's confidence in the justice system requires judicial officers and juries to operate unhindered by threats and intimidation in a safe and secure environment. The Government's commitment to reviewing and improving court security and to ensuring the safety of judicial officers and jurors means New South Wales courts are amongst the most secure in Australia. Sheriff's officers are an important resource in maintaining court safety and there are 15 Sheriff's officers based at Newcastle courthouse. I am advised that yesterday two officers were unavailable due to illness; they rang in sick. The trial continued as planned. Newcastle courthouse has full perimeter security that was adequately covered. Arrangements have been made today to bring an additional Sheriff's officer to Newcastle to assist the court.