Criminal trial delays in Australia : trial listing outcomes


This research examines the reasons for which criminal trials in Australia fail
to proceed on the day of listing. The rationale of such an inquiry is that
matters that fail to proceed as scheduled contribute to backlog and delay, both
of which consume significant criminal justice resources. Moreover, delay in the
criminal trial system may result in adverse effects, not the least of which is
the anguish endured by the victims of crime and their families, and the
community demanding protection from criminal offenders. This research used
quantitative data from courts across a number of Australian states and
territories to demonstrate that more than half of all listed criminal trials
fail to commence on the listed day. After an analysis of data about trials and
extensive interviews with court administrators, it is found that those trials
that do not proceed can be placed into two categories: those trials that are
finalised on or near the trial date either by way of late guilty plea or late
withdrawal by the prosecution, and those trials that are adjourned and
re-listed. While some delays will be inevitable, the report builds on
recommendations made by a working group of the Standing Committee of
Attorneys-General to suggest ways of reducing the backlog of criminal trials
across Australia.