MAKEOVER NEEDED? Maryborough courthouse judged

MARYBOROUGH'S heritage-listed courthouse may be in for a make-over after a visiting judge highlighted a fundamental issue with its layout.

Judge Greg Koppenol this week criticised that not all jury members have a view of the defendant during a trial because a piece of wood was in the way.

Jurors are instructed during trials that observing facial expressions and reactions of people involved was just as important as taking in what was being said.

But during Maryborough trials, jurors positioned in the top corner of the allocated seating arrangement have their view obstructed.

"That would be the case for every trial conducted in Maryborough, a few members of the jury won't be able to see the defendant," Judge Koppenol said.

"It is essential that every member of the jury can see the defendant."

A Department of Justice and Attorney-General spokesman told The Chronicle the concern raised by Judge Koppenol would be taken into consideration to determine if works to the courtroom were required.

The courthouse, built in 1887, is vastly different to its modern-designed counterparts such as the Hervey Bay Courthouse.

In Hervey Bay, defendants coming in from jail go directly into the dock through a back door but in Maryborough, they must be walked through the courtroom.

People involved in court proceedings in Maryborough often complain of having hearing difficulties due to poor acoustics.

Jurors are often forced to interrupt trials to remind witnesses and lawyers to speak up.

Those sitting in the dock also often indicate being unable to hear what is going on.

Malfunction of the air-conditioning has also posed problems of late, forcing those attending cases in Maryborough to endure severe discomfort.

For example, during sentencing of Fraser Coast's high profile killer Nathan Greenfield last month, a full gallery turned up to see justice for their beloved June Wallis, only to discover they would have to sit through hours of scorching and uncomfortable conditions.

Many in the seating area were visibly sweating, with people using any suitable object they could think of for a fan. Juries are a vital component of our legal system, but potential jurors who came to Maryborough court this week for a scheduled trial had a shock at the conditions they would have to sit through.

The air-conditioner was once again off.

Many comments about how hot it was were made, but ultimately the trial was cancelled and all were free to go.

The Department of Justice and Attorney-General spokesman said there were no immediate plans to do an upgrade at the courthouse.

"In the past, works have been undertaken to improve the acoustics of the court room by the strategic placement of speakers around the room," the spokesman said.

"Staff also regularly test and service microphones to ensure acoustics are at an appropriate level."