In the Australian legal justice system, with the increasing demand to expand summary jurisdiction, there has been a controversial issue as to which process is more appropriate to deliver justice to public as well as litigants; efficiency process or due process. While the former focuses on informality and efficiency, which requires judicial officers to struggle to manage limited time created by long case lists, the latter emphasizes formality and due process, which is commonly seen on higher courts.
Grounded on the characteristics of respective courts mentioned above, this observation at the New South Wales Local Court and Supreme Court during three days aimed at comparing one proceeding with the other. 2. Local Court: Efficiency In the courtroom for sentencing at the Downing Centre Local Court, It was a wide range of cases dealt with by the Magistrate that were the most impressive and surprising. The Magistrate sat on the top seat without juries and decided all questions of laws and facts.
The Magistrate, even though so busy, treated a large number of documents given by clerks calmly as if finishing such many cases in a day, consisting of mainly minor crimes, was natural. At a glance, it was definite that the Magistrate worked in pursuit of efficiency, which includes speed and finality. In accordance with Doreen McBarnet, due process has been excluded from the lower courts because the process is not necessary, grounded on the two facts – “first, the offences and the penalties are too trivial” and “second, the issues and processes are such that the niceties of law and lawyers are irrelevant”.
Surprisingly, as reflecting his argument, it took each defendant, at most, five minutes to be sentenced. In fact, most cases were decided within 30 seconds, especially in case the Magistrate determined adjournment. Only two cases were protracted for 10 minutes. It was even suspected, when the vast majority of criminal matters handled by the Magistrate at a time were observed, whether or not the proceedings at the Local Court are truly contributing to protecting the accused from injustice.
Because the Magistrate looked likely to make a mistake ultimately influencing the decision on the accused under the time pressure. At the same court on another day, there was a hearing associated with the accused convicted of fraud, whose case proceeded for an entire day, from 10:00 to 16:00. What caught people’s attention to the case was the way of representation for the accused since the person who represented the accused was the accused himself.
The more interesting thing was that the accused was not so skilled at expressing himself that there frequently appeared to come out deliveries with ambiguous meanings by him. In response to them, the Magistrate, at times, sighed deeply and strived to intervene in order to deliver a clear meaning as quickly as he can by requesting the accused to repeat what he said right before or summing up his speech. Moreover, the Magistrate asked a clerk to bring other defendants waiting for sentencing outside into the courtroom whenever there is a break.
The intervening hearings were also finished within a few minutes. When one of the witnesses, who could not speak in English but only Arab, was called for to the witness box, there was no one who could interpret Arab. As a consequence of that, the trial was held for a minute to allow the clerk to go out and seek for someone being able to help the hearing to continue. However, she failed to find anyone and the interrogation to the witness could not help being postponed to another day.
In respect of the happening, It is no doubt that this sort of soft spot at lower courts is pointed out as a factor to render people consider exclusively the higher courts as more thorough and reliable through a whole trial, but the magistrate’s courts as unprofessional and loose. 3. Supreme Court: Due Process Basically, this process is reluctant to put substantial emphasis on the reliability and accuracy of decisions made in the early stages of the criminal process.
The Supreme Court could be definitely distinguished from the Local Court in a variety of aspects. Most of all, on the contrary to the Local Court that proceeded in a stereotyped way like an ‘assembly line’, the Supreme Court seemed like an ‘obstacle course’, which is optimized to reduce the possibility of error. Based on this principle, the Lord presiding over a trial at the Supreme Court was even more patient with postponement happening in the process than the magistrates at the Local Court.
Although the trial was sometimes delayed due to preparation for evidence presented by the defence counsel and barristers, the Lord waited for it to be set without requiring the counsel to get it ready more quickly so as to give maximum protection to the innocent. Additionally, what was the most remarkably different between the two courts was equipment used for presenting evidence. For instance, in the courtroom, there was a huge screen on the wall, on which all the participants in the trial could easily read crucial documents and grasp the issue of the case.
Moreover, the prosecutor submitted evidence of a telephone conversation recorded as a file between the accused and a person concerned, using a computer. Yet, it is not true that everything went well in the courtroom with the system – due process. It is because the equipment used by participants might have some technical defect in preparation for evidence. When one of the clerks tried to let a document file show up on the screen, the device did not operate well, which led the trial to be delayed for a few minutes.
However, no matter how long the delay continued, the Justice emphasized ‘due process’ more than ‘efficiency’, ensuring that fundamental rights are protected in those processes. 4. Conclusion As coming back to the fundamental question – which process is more proper and helpful to keep people living in justice in society – it could be said that the more idealistic out of the two models might be due process in that all cases put before the court would be able to be examined thoroughly for the utmost fairness to accused people by the judges.
However, it is not, in fact, desirable, and even meaningless, to seek to identify the answer to the question, not only since both processes, based on their respective roles – efficiency and due process – are respectively imperative to embody justice in the society, but also it is nearly impossible for the courts to treat all the cases only by due process, considering the reality that a significant number of cases are brought before courts. Only in harmony with the two processes will justice be realized. Appendix
Wednesday March 16 2011 Local Court, Downing Court Centre 10:00 am – 16:00 pm Courtroom 4. 6 R v Cannon held a hearing. Several witnesses were called for to the witness box, including a policeman. In the middle of the hearing, two cases were brought before the magistrate, which was sentenced in 3 minutes. Wednesday March 23 2011 Local Court, Downing Court Centre 10:00 am – 16:00 pm Courtroom 4. 4 Only sentencing was delivered. A number of trivial criminal matters were sentenced, most of which consisted of drunk driving, and were adjourned.
A couple of cases were taken over 5 minutes. Wednesday March 30 2011 NSW Supreme Court 10:00 am – 16:00 pm, King St Building Court 2, Justice T Buddin R v Noel Gardiner case was held for hearing. The accused was convicted of fraud and the most proceedings focused on the contract paper and conversation between the accused and a person who concerned with the case. Everyone’s voice was too small to hear what they spoke very well. Bibliography
David Brown, David Farrier, Sandra Egger, Luke McNamara & Alex Steel, Criminal Law: Material and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process of New South Wales (The Federation Press, 5th ed, 2010). Kathy Mack and Sharyn Roach Anleu, ‘Getting Through The List’: Judgecraft and Legitimacy in the Lower Courts (2007). Andrew Sanders & Richard Young, Criminal Justice (Oxford 3rded, 2007). Kathleen Daly, Andrew John Goldsmith, Mark Israel, Aims of the Criminal justice system (Lawbook Co. ,3rd ed, 2006). Andrew, Ashworth, Mike, Redmayne, The Criminal Process(Oxford University Press, 3rd ed, 2005).