Some of Australia’s historic law courts are causing concern amongst practitioners and users that they are placing families at risk of harm thanks to their ageing and often inappropriate infrastructure.
When such a large proportion of family law matters proceeding through the courts these days involve allegations of family violence, it is concerning that users are still required to use facilities which have not been designed with safety in mind.
In Victoria, a draft strategy has been released by Infrastructure Victoria which contains recommendations for the modernisation of infrastructure, however these are framed over a 30 year period, which many in the region’s legal community fear is simply too slow a timeframe. Family law practitioners who are affected suggest a maximum five year time frame is necessary for the proposed works. Addressing security issues at the courts is seen as being vital in improving the safety of users and ultimately giving them confidence in using the system.
Many existing facilities have not been designed with confrontation in mind. For example, the historic court building in Bendigo has a single entrance, meaning the likelihood of opposing parties crossing paths is very high and creates tension, both for practitioners and clients. One family lawyer says that despite improvements thanks to the new court six building, “even there…there’s a safety issue where there is only one bathroom in that precinct”. Another troubling issue, for example, is that:
A lack of interview rooms means private conversations between lawyers and their clients are taking place where they can be overheard or intimidated by the opposing party.
Some of the modernisation undertaken so far is regarded as having been merely cosmetic: “(looking) terrific from the street, but they’re not fit for purpose for a modern court facility”. The local legal community says it fears “it will take a tragedy for the urgent need for modern law courts to be realised”.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 for a free first conference to discuss how we can help you.