Richard Coverdale, Research Fellow with the School of Law has recently produced a report Postcode Justice: Rural and Regional Disadvantage in the Administration of the Law in Victoria [PDF 8.4MB].
The report, funded by the Victoria Law Foundation, reveals a range of areas in which regional and rural Victorians are disadvantaged when participating in the justice system.
A number of major findings of this report include:
- Specialist Magistrates' Courts and Court programs available in Melbourne are only available at a few regional locations, which impacts on outcomes for court users
- Current sentencing arrangements in regional Victoria assume a level of local community agencies which often don't exist in many smaller regional and rural areas
- County Court hearing date allocations at regional circuit courts are different to arrangements for the Melbourne County Court, which has major implications for the provision of 'natural justice'.
Other issues identified by the survey participants include:
- 79% agreed regional communities are disadvantaged by the distance they are required to travel to attend court
- 74% of all survey respondents agreed that an independent authority should be established to provide advice to government on policies and legislation which impacts on rural and regional Victorians
- 69% of regional lawyers raised 'conflict of interest' as an issue which adversely impacted on their ability to provide services to regional clients
- 67% of all survey respondents agreed that legislation tended to be developed centrally without due consideration for its impact on rural regional communities
- 67% of all survey respondents agreed that court orders and penalties do not adequately reflect the differing circumstances of people living in regional areas.