Court short: Campaspe Shire hands down its final verdict

September 15, 2017

CAMPASPE Shire Council has served notice on Echuca Magistrates Court. Again.

But this time it means business. If it doesn’t come to the table with a solution soon it will have to find a new home instead of sharing it with council as it is doing on Heygarth St.

Council said it had actively worked with Court Services Victoria to meet the requirements of an initial council resolution made in June 2015, separating entry points for court services and council, essentially making it a safer facility.

“These discussions however have recently stalled and CSV has now been asked to revise their proposed solution to the satisfaction of council, otherwise I will be required to action council’s resolution of June 2015, which will require CSV to vacate the premises,’’ chief executive Jason Russell said.

‘‘Council, on behalf of the community, is concerned the discussions have been protracted and a satisfactory proposal to address the issue has not been reached. This is not a position that council has taken lightly but the safety of staff and community members is paramount.’’

A CSV spokesperson said it had provided a proposal to Campaspe Shire in May ‘‘that substantially addressed the safety and security concerns’’ which had been raised. It also allowed for separate entrances for the shire building and the court to be created.

‘‘Court Services Victoria (CSV) is committed to ensuring that courts and tribunals across Victoria are safe and secure for all court users,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘Security guards and screening equipment will also be deployed to Echuca court as part of CSV’s rollout of a new court security model. When fully implemented, the new model will ensure all Victorian court and tribunal locations have security staff and screening equipment present on court sitting days.

‘‘Deployment of CSOs and screening equipment to regional courts, including Echuca, is on schedule to commence in late 2017.’’

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said it was up to the Department of Justice to make sure there was enough money ‘‘to do the job properly’’.

‘‘There was an acknowledgement last year when the announcement for funding was made so there is an admission that the facilities don’t meet the standards that are required and if the money that was announced is not enough then the department needs to find the additional money to make sure the facilities do meet the standards required,’’ he said.

Mr Walsh said he understood the money was enough to build a shell on the other side and a new entrance but all the fitout costs would be worn by council.

‘‘And I think that’s unacceptable,’’ he said.

‘‘I think it’s absolutely critical (that the facility is safe) and it’s very pertinent around family violence issues when there are cases around restraining orders to have both sides of the case in close proximity as happens now, is not appropriate for those victims of family violence.’’

Council moved a motion at the June 2015 meeting asking Court Services Victoria (CSV) to carry out works to the court facility and entry area to ‘‘provide safety to council staff and visitors within a six month period’’. It came after an all-in brawl broke out at the site in April 2015.

Once agreement on the proposed works was reached, the resolution also required a new five year lease to be offered at market rent.

The CSV lease of the facility has expired and they are currently on a month by month arrangement.

A $1.1 million grant was announced last year to provide separate court access from Campaspe Shire’s office, as well as waiting rooms and safe interview rooms to support victims of family violence.

As part of a bigger picture, and a more long-term arrangement, council was looking to move completely out of the shared arrangement.

Campaspe Inspector Geoff Owen said he did not think it was appropriate to make comment on commercial arrangements.

‘‘Police will work alongside external agencies to ensure an efficient and safe court no matter what the outcome,’’ he said.

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