Be­sieged po­lice avoid court jobs

Plea for mag­is­trates to re­duce ten­sion

The Advertiser - - NEWS - SEAN FEW­STER CHIEF COURT RE­PORTER

RUDE, dis­re­spect­ful mag­is­trates are driv­ing away po­lice from prose­cu­tion jobs by con­demn­ing them for prob­lems cre­ated by the con­tro­ver­sial court ef­fi­ciency laws, a peak body says.

The Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion has weighed in on the ten­sions plagu­ing the courts and the on­go­ing blame game be­tween SA Po­lice, Foren­sic Science SA, state pros­e­cu­tors and mag­is­trates. Yes­ter­day, as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Mark Car­roll said it was “never ac­cept­able” for any­one in a court – up to and in­clud­ing mag­is­trates – to treat po­lice of­fi­cers with dis­re­spect.

“One of the rea­sons some of our mem­bers no longer seek a ca­reer in prose­cu­tion is be­cause of the rude and dis­re­spect­ful be­hav­iour of some mag­is­trates,” he said.

“Peo­ple who make up the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of the court sys­tem should be sup­port­ing each other, not tear­ing each other down or of­fer­ing a pub­lic con­dem­na­tion of their roles.

“If the new ef­fi­ciency laws are in­deed a prob­lem, the ju­di­ciary needs to take that up with the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral with­out pub­licly con­demn­ing po­lice pros­e­cu­tors and in­ves­ti­ga­tors.”

Un­der the laws, which came into ef­fect in March, po­lice re­tain con­trol of cases un­til their pre­lim­i­nary brief of ev­i­dence is deemed ac­cept­able by the Direc­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions.

The DPP then de­ter­mines whether the charge filed at ar­rest will con­tinue, be down­graded or dropped al­to­gether – the en­tire process takes be­tween 14 and 18 months.

As a re­sult, vic­tims have been left in the dark about case progress and al­leged of­fend­ers have been re­manded in cus­tody, not know­ing if the charges will even pro­ceed.

On Mon­day, The Ad­ver­tiser re­ported judges and mag­is­trates had warned they would throw out cases and re­lease of­fend­ers if charges con­tin­ued to take too long to fi­nalise.

Later that day, Mag­is­trate Si­mon Smart claimed po­lice in an at­tempted mur­der case were “re­lax­ing” and hand­ing over ev­i­dence “in any way” they felt like.

When Court­ney Hood, for SA Po­lice, de­fended in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cers, Mr Smart told her “don’t talk over the top of me” and “don’t in­ter­rupt me”.

On Wed­nes­day, a cor­rup­tion case was ad­journed un­til May 2019 at the re­quest of the DPP – de­spite a mag­is­trate hav­ing re­fused to do so, for the same case, when po­lice asked.

Mr Car­roll, pic­tured, said po­lice per­formed “a crit­i­cal role” in the court sys­tem.

A spokes­woman for the Courts Ad­min­is­tra­tion Au­thor­ity said the state’s chief mag­is­trate, Judge Mary-Louise Hribal, was away.

DPP Adam Kim­ber SC was yes­ter­day con­sid­er­ing his re­sponse to The Ad­ver­tiser.

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