Reforms that will bring Queensland’s courtrooms into the 21st century and further improve court efficiency will be introduced in Parliament this week.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie and Chief Justice Paul de Jersey demonstrated technology that would allow expert witnesses to give video evidence from anywhere in the world.
“We live in a digital world these days and allowing Queensland’s courtrooms to plug in will not only improve efficiency, it will save taxpayers money,” Mr Bleijie said.
“We are delivering on our commitment to revitalise frontline services and deliver better infrastructure and this will build upon other successful improvements in court services, highlighted in the Government’s Renewal Program quarterly update.
“Flying and accommodating witnesses costs the Director of Public Prosecutions and taxpayers an average $1.45 million every year.
“Allowing expert witnesses to give evidence via video link will mean they won’t need to be flown in on the taxpayers’ tab.
“It also means that doctors, for example, won’t be away from their patients for days if they need to give evidence in a trial out of town. They will instead be able testify from their local courthouse or even their home or office if they have an appropriate internet connection and hardware.
“We respect the right to cross-examine and eyeball witnesses, which is why this reform relates only to expert witnesses. Their core credibility is often established by professional qualifications, which means their physical demeanour is not as critical as, for example, someone claiming to be an accused’s alibi.
“This modernisation of the justice system has the support of the Chief Justice and the Court will still have absolute discretion to order a witness to appear in person if a Judge or Magistrate believes it is appropriate.
“These reforms protect fundamental, time-honoured principles of our legal system while ensuring our courtrooms are plugged into new opportunities to deliver fairer and more efficient justice to Queenslanders.
“These reforms build upon other successful innovations that are modernising Queensland’s courts.
“Renewal Program quarterly update figures show the Government’s ground breaking trial of Justices of the Peace hearing and ruling on minor civil matters in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has nearly halved waiting times.
“Since June last year, 2,685 matters have been heard by JPs and it has reduced overall hearing times from 6 weeks to 3.2 weeks by allowing adjudicators to focus on more complex matters.
“It’s a common sense approach that is taking pressure off the court system while allowing our JPs to be more involved with the community.
“We are committed to making our courts system the best, fairest and most transparent in the nation.”