Written by  Joseph Burke 2016-04-12

Victorian goverment to stop prisoners accessing lawyers at court

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The Victorian government is reported by the herald sun to have introduced legislation which will stop remand prisoners from routinely being brought to court on their court dates. Instead, it is proposed that they will usually be kept in prison, and will routinely appear at court via video-link. The government is trying to spin this as a hi-tech overhaul, but the reality is it will harm access to justice for remand prisoners in Victoria.

There is a legitimate capacity issue for courts right now, as they only have enough space to deal with a limited number of remand prisoners in custody. Recent changes to bail laws have resulted in overcrowding, and resulted in situations where remand prisoners have not been brought to court at all. When this happens, costs are awarded against the department of corrections.

And costs should be awarded against the department when prisoners aren't brought to court. Because it affects their ability to properly defend themselves.

When prisoners are brought to court, they can be seen by their lawyers at the court cells. This is convenient for lawyers, and prisoners. It is also very necessary to ensure the timely resolution of matters. But this can't happen if prisoners are being held in the prison on their court date.

The implication is that it will require lawyers to visit prison more often. Now most prisons are in locations that are very inconvenient for lawyers. The MAP is OK, located in Spencer St, Melbourne. But the metropolitan remand centre is located in Ravenhall victoria, 20 km west of the CBD. Such prisons clearly aren't very pleasant for lawyers to visit. So prisoners in custody are going to have a tough time accessing lawyers from prison.

And this, really will have a devastating impact on access to justice for prisoners in custody. All to save the government a couple of bucks.

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