Magistrate flat out as more people face court

CRIMINALS have kept the Gladstone Magistrates Court busy over the past year with 3812 people facing 5944 criminal offences.

This represents a rise of 494 defendants and 852 criminal offences compared with the previous year.

Over the past year, 146 minors have appeared in the Gladstone Magistrates Court charged with 330 offences - an increase on the previous year's 106 defendants and 235 offences.

Magistrates have made 138 child protection orders in Gladstone, which represented 1.14% of the state's total.

Statewide there has been an increase of 8.42% in the number of people appearing in magistrates courts and an 8.3% increase in the number of charges compared to the previous year.

Gladstone Law Association president Bernadette Le Grand said she was not surprised the court had been busy over the past year.

She said it had been fairly busy for the past few years.

"It is probably too busy for the one magistrate. They are sitting very late most days," she said.

Queensland's Chief Magistrate is reviewing long waiting times and the heavy workload of staff at Gladstone Magistrates Court.

Ms Le Grand said people were representing themselves more in court - by choice and because of cuts to legal aid - and that was contributing to the delays.

She explained Magistrate Penelope Hay was using court time to help those defendants understand the legal process (that would otherwise be seen to by official representatives).

Ms Le Grand said the problem had now been discussed with the relevant authorities.

"The issues are being reviewed by the Chief Magistrate and his representatives," she said.

"Our association would of course like to work with the magistrate and her staff to identify ways to reduce waiting times and improve efficiencies where possible," she said.

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