We have a sticky situation at Court at the moment. There are supposed to be three prosecutors working all the time, but one of them is on maternity leave. The senior prosecutor left a few weeks ago on short notice, so he has been replaced by another senior prosecutor, but one who hasn't been in my town for very long. The third prosecutor has been on sick leave for nearly a month.
This means that one prosecutor is trying to do the work of three.
I spoke to the one prosecutor still standing this morning, who confided that she was about to physically drop from exhaustion and stress. The Court was still sitting after 7pm last NIGHT, and she hasn't got anyone else to fall back on.
If she comes down sick, she isn't going to get back up in a hurry; she is really looking worn down. And then what is going to happen?
As much as the prosecutors are always 'on the other side,' they are still our colleagues, and we can't do anything much in criminal law without them. Even if they are strenuously opposed to our position, we can still work together to sort out the issues for determination by a magistrate.
So when the prosecutors don't have time to read our letters because they are trying to prepare for two trials in one day, the whole process grinds to a halt.
I want my letters answered, I want to keep things moving, and the magistrate wants to get results, but that just can't happen until prosecution services gets enough people up here to man all the desks.
I have the greatest respect for my colleagues on the other side, but they are hamstrung by a lack of staff.
It probably goes back to the old issues of 'not enough funding.' Well, from a criminal justice perspective, you need to fund both sides of the issue if results are going to be fair, correct, and timely. It isn't fair on the victims, but it also isn't fair on the defendants.
As a solicitor primarily doing Legal Aid work, I want more funding for Legal Aid lawyers. But I also want more funding for prosecutors, because every delay on the prosecution side means more work and more appearances for me. My $245 solicitor, $245 counsel payments really don't seem that much if you are in court 5 times, and have to take updated instructions from your client 3 times, send 15 letters, 12 faxes, etc.