Doubts raised on future of Port Pirie courthouse

DILEMMA: Opposition legal affairs spokesman Kyam Maher says residents will be the losers if the courthouse closes as a result of budget cuts by the Courts Administration Authority. He said cases may be withdrawn because of possible travel involved.

DILEMMA: Opposition legal affairs spokesman Kyam Maher says residents will be the losers if the courthouse closes as a result of budget cuts by the Courts Administration Authority. He said cases may be withdrawn because of possible travel involved.

Could Port Pirie's courthouse, built at a cost of millions of dollars in recent years, be closed?

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Kyam Maher visited the courthouse on Thursday to raise this possibility.

He spoke in the wake of an announcement that the Courts Administration Authority had to achieve unprecedented budget savings.

Mr Maher toured the Upper Spencer Gulf to raise concerns about the future of courthouses in Port Pirie, Whyalla and Port Augusta under the cost-cutting regime.

He said he had spoken to community legal centres, lawyers, service providers and police and the most likely scenario was that Port Pirie Magistrates Court and registry could close.

"There is great concern about the possibility of Port Pirie closing," he said.

He said if locals had to travel to Port Augusta for justice, it could mean delays in prosecutions, possibly including those involving domestic violence.

If witnesses had to travel long distances to court, without a substantial public transport service, it could result in cases being withdrawn by police. "The longer a victim has to wait to go to trial, the more likely it is that police will withdraw the case and not proceed with it," he said.

He described the courthouse as a pillar of the community and said its loss would spoil the great efforts on behalf of the town by Port Pirie-based Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock.

"A lot of lawyers come to Port Pirie because there is a courthouse and some may leave if it closes," he said.

A lot of lawyers come to Port Pirie because there is a courthouse and some may leave if it closes

Kyam Maher, Labor Party

"The Attorney-General has not ruled out the possibility of any courthouse closing.

"People have reason to be apprehensive.

"In Opposition, now-premier Steven Marshall and Ms Chapman made all kinds of noises about how they were going to provide additional support for the courts.

"In government, they have done exactly the opposite.

"They must ensure that residents of Port Pirie will continue to have access to justice here rather than being forced to travel to other towns or even Adelaide." The Recorder is seeking comment from Attorney-General Vickie Chapman. Chief Justice Chris Kourakis visited the courthouse last month to host a meeting at which the cost of justice was discussed.

Mr Kourakis revealed that the Courts Administration Authority needs to make unprecedented budget cuts.

The meeting was attended by about 15 locals including police, lawyers, the court registrar, Mr Brock and representatives from Adelaide and the Correctional Services Department.

"I told people why we were here - because of a substantial budget cut," Mr Kourakis said.

"There are a couple of things in the wind that might save us from these cuts."

Asked about potential savings here, he said video-links from Port Pirie to metropolitan courts had reduced travel and accommodation costs. This could be further developed.

Comments