Statistics and information regarding the workload and impact of criminal and civil matters in the Magistrates Court.
The establishment of the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit in February 2014, which saw some matters traditionally dealt with by the court managed through the new Unit, preceded the subsequent decline in Magistrates Court criminal lodgements from 2014. The decline in the median time to finalise a criminal matter in the District Court followed the Criminal Law (Sentencing) (Guilty Pleas) Amendment Act 2012, which commenced in July 2013.
The Act provides an incentive to plead guilty at an earlier stage in the criminal justice process, by reducing the amount of sentence discount that can be received for a guilty plea in later stages. The Act preceded an increase in the number of persons committed to the District Court for sentencing only (rather than for trial) because they pleaded guilty at an earlier stage in the Magistrates Court. Given that matters committed for sentence are finalised more quickly than matters committed for trial, this is likely to have decreased the median time to finalisation.
The surge in civil lodgements in both the Magistrates and District Court in 2013 immediately preceded the commencement of legislation that changed the way the civil jurisdiction in both courts dealt with matters.
The Statutes Amendment (Courts Efficiency) Act 2012 increased the monetary limits for civil claims in the Magistrates Court, so that a number of claims that would have previously been lodged in the District Court could be dealt with in the Magistrates Court. The legislation also increased the monetary limits for minor civil claims in the Magistrates Court, which meant that an increased number of matters would be heard without legal representation in that court.
In addition, amendments to the Civil Liabilities Act 1936 changed the amount of compensation that could be paid under the Compulsory Third Party Scheme. The increase in lodgements prior to the commencement of the legislation possibly reflects an attempt to avoid the impact of these changes.
The Introduction of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) on 30 March 2015 would have reduced the numbers of civil lodgements in both the Magistrates and District Courts, as selected (usually more minor) matters dealt with by these Courts were progressively rolled over to SACAT. The increase in the median number of weeks to finalise a civil matter in the Magistrates or District Courts may simply reflect the higher monetary value and potentially more complex nature of the civil matters now being dealt with in each court.