Legislative Council: Thursday, March 21, 2024


Court Transcripts

The Hon. C. BONAROS (14:45): I seek leave to ask the Attorney-General a question about access to court transcripts.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: According to a budget submission last year by the Law Society, there are considerable costs associated with obtaining court transcripts for most who appear before South Australian courts, and this is an ongoing cost barrier to South Australians accessing justice. In criminal matters, the prosecution, Legal Services Commission and ALRM, upon application, all receive transcripts free of charge, but a defendant who is not funded by legal aid will not. A court transcript is often a necessity when interacting with South Australia's justice system, particularly in the higher courts.

I do note that there are some provisions in the relevant rules that allow for some documents to be provided to defendants or victims free of charge, but that does not apply to all documents and this can result in cost blowouts of hundreds or thousands of dollars, not to mention the financial strain of funding private representation and other associated costs.

I note that at the moment, according to the District Court rules, a copy of evidence is charged in electronic form at $9.50 per page and in hard copy form at $12.10 per page. The income generated from these court transcripts as I understand it reverts back to the government's consolidated accounts, rather than anything else that assists with the courts. So my question to the Attorney is: what, if any, consideration has been given to alleviating those financial strains and ensuring better access to justice for victims and defendants alike by either waiving or reducing the fees for court transcripts?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for her question and, as I think she pointed out in her question, certainly for some groups who provide legal services to some of the most disadvantaged members of our community there are, as I understand it, some provisions in place for fee waivers. I think the honourable member talked about the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and the Legal Services Commission. I think the honourable member suggested—and I think it is right—that there are certain other fee waivers for costs for certain other things that you might obtain from court.

In relation to where any revenue that is raised from court transcripts goes, I will check but I think that does not go into general revenue. I think it goes to the Courts Administration Authority, the independent body that manages our courts, but if that is wrong, I will double-check. I will raise it with the Courts Administration Authority and make sure that in my next meeting they are aware of the question that has been raised today. My guess is that the fees that are charged probably do not go much beyond the cost to the court to provide that service in providing documents, but I certainly will raise it with the Courts Administration Authority.