Brisbane Supreme and District Court
Brisbane Supreme and District Court KGBO

Brisbane courts facing ‘significant crisis’

QUEENSLAND's courts are slogging through the highest number of criminal cases in the country, with the least judges in some jurisdictions.

According to the latest Productivity Commission report on government services, there were 225,150 criminal lodgements in Queensland in 2016/17 - the highest of any state by about 15,000 and a 13 per cent jump in seven years.

The Supreme Court is closest to breaking point, with a whopping 44 per cent increase on criminal cases since 2010/11 at 2740 and no extra judges appointed in that time.

The same report reveals Queensland has the equal lowest number of Supreme Court judges and the least District Court judges dealing with criminal cases per 100,000 people at 0.2 and 0.5 respectively.

Criminal lawyer Bill Potts. Picture: Mike Batterham
Criminal lawyer Bill Potts. Picture: Mike Batterham

The Magistrates Court is better resourced, with 1.5 judicial officers per 100,000 people - the third highest in the country - but it is dealing with 215,000 of Queensland's criminal cases.

Veteran criminal lawyer Bill Potts said while Queensland's courts were still running efficiently, they were facing a "significant crisis".

"Unfortunately, in Queensland we have had an under-investment in justice in recent years," he said.

"We need, in my view, three Supreme Court judges and five District Court judges to be immediately appointed."

About 10 per cent of cases in the Supreme Court linger longer than 12 months, making it one of the top three performers in the country.

Chief Justice Catherine Holmes.
Chief Justice Catherine Holmes.

But Chief Justice Catherine Holmes has previously warned the backlog could explode.

"The pattern for criminal filings is on a seemingly inextricable trajectory upwards. It has doubled over the last three financial years and there is no reason at all to suppose the rate of acceleration would slow," she said in 2016.

NSW had 210,298 criminal lodgements, with 0.2 Supreme Court judges per 100,000 people, 0.6 District Court judges and 1.1 magistrates.

Victoria had less than 200,000 lodgements with 0.2 Supreme Court judges, 0.7 District Court judges and 1.2 magistrates per 100,000 people.

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the Government was "committed to ensuring the court system has the resources it needs" and had added $20 million in funding this financial year.