EMERGENCY weekend court sittings will be held for the first time in more than 40 years to ease overcrowding in the state’s prison system.
As a direct result of a police request two courtrooms will sit this Saturday to clear offenders arrested on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and address overcrowding in police holding cells caused by the overflow of remandees from prisons.
The Advertiser has learnt that police also formally asked Correctional Services to clear dozens of its remand prisoners from its holding cells in preparation for the usual influx of arrests for behavioural offences over the Christmas/New Year period.
State Courts Administrator Julie-Anne Burgess said the Saturday court sittings were in addition to the 24-hour telephone roster of Magistrates who reviewed bail matters on weekends and public holidays.
She said the decision to run the two courts was “a one-off basis’’ and reflected the fact courts were closed for four days from tomorrow.
“Police have powers to issue police bail. There are instances, however, where police oppose bail and the matter is such that it requires additional input from other justice agencies ...,’’ she said.
“It is important to note the Magistrates Court has no intention of introducing extra sittings of courts on nights, weekends and public holidays. This would not improve materially on the existing 24-hour telephone bail system.’’
The Saturday sittings will see extra costs incurred by each sector of the justice system. The Legal Services Commission will also have three duty solicitors attending — including its chairman, prominent barrister Michael Abbott, QC.
Last month police Commissioner Gary Burns called for weekend court sittings to clear prisoners from police holding cells, but this was rejected by the CAA which believes the telephone roster is adequate.
Assistant Commissioner Bronwyn Killmier confirmed discussions had occurred between SAPOL and Corrections over prisoner numbers to ensure “the operational requirements’’ of both agencies were met.
“These discussions have led to the adoption of a number of strategies including a Saturday court hearing and arrangements being made with a number of agencies to ensure appropriate staffing to streamline processes across this period,’’ she said.
“This has also resulted in the Sturt cells being vacated by Correctional Services as of today and a reduction in numbers at the city watchhouse. Prisoner numbers are reviewed daily and whenever possible housed in Correctional Service’s facilities.’’
Correctional Services acting chief executive Greg Weir said there were now only 23 prisoners of the 38 allowed at the city watchhouse following the police request. This was expected to decrease further with around 60 vacant beds now available across all prisons.
“We will continue to liaise with SAPOL to ensure their operational priorities and in particular any capacity or business continuity needs are met over Christmas and the New Year,” he said.
See original article: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/overcrowding-forces-adelaide-magistrates-court-to-hold-emergency-sittings-at-weekend/story-fni6uo1m-1227165674551