Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 19, 2022


District Court

The Hon. S.G. WADE (15:18): My questions are to the Attorney-General in relation to the District Court:

1. What progress has been made in the appointment of additional associates to the judges of the District Court funded in the 2022-23 budget?

2. Has the District Court advised how much of the $2.8 million provided in the context of the Ironside cases will be allocated to funding associates?

3. How many associates have been appointed thus far?

4. What impact are these appointments having in reducing the backlog of both criminal and civil lists?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:19): I thank the honourable member for his question in relation to extra budget provision that was made in relation to Operation Ironside cases that are finding their way, first, through the Magistrates Court, but I think the vast majority of the actual trials will be held in the District Court.

As we have talked about in this chamber before and certainly during the estimates process in some detail, there was the ANOM messaging system that was used, an encrypted network that was installed on Android devices and used by law enforcement agencies right around the world to gain intelligence on illegal activities. In South Australia, they were predominantly but not exclusively controlled by members and associates of outlaw motorcycle gangs who used the platform.

I am informed that as of August of this year, around 90 people had been arrested and charged by South Australia Police in relation to the Operation Ironside investigation, charges including conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause serious harm, participating in a criminal organisation, money laundering, arson, trafficking in large commercial quantities of various controlled substances, and other firearms offences.

I am informed that there are a number of ongoing matters for investigation and for consideration of prosecution. What we do know is it will have an impact on the flow through the court processes and, as the honourable member has correctly pointed out, particularly through the District Court, which will see quite a number of these matters when they come to trial.

There was the budget allocation in this year's budget to provide for a number of requests that the Courts Administration Authority had put forward to deal with this increase in workload and, certainly, as I recall—and I will double-check if it's not correct—some of those were in relation to associates in the District Court. Of course, it is a matter for the Courts Administration Authority, as it is set up under its own legislation in South Australia, to allocate, when resources provide, how they are spent, but I am not sure whether people have been employed yet or not.

It is also the case that in providing these resources it recognises that if they weren't provided it would have significant impacts on other cases and other matters that flow through our court system. So it has the double effect of making sure there is the timely and effective management of the trials of Ironside cases, but also being used to make sure the cases aren't creating an unnecessary backlog because of those cases in our system.