Tasmania Police to be removed from the Launceston Supreme Court

COPS IN COURT: Bass Liberal MHA Sarah Courtney with Tasmania Police Northern Commander Brett Smith discussing the state government's plan to remove police from the Launceston Supreme Court. Picture: Phillip Biggs
COPS IN COURT: Bass Liberal MHA Sarah Courtney with Tasmania Police Northern Commander Brett Smith discussing the state government's plan to remove police from the Launceston Supreme Court. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Up to six police officers will be back on the beat in Launceston when correctional officers take over their Supreme Court duties. 

Recruiting for the new staff will begin on Saturday as the state government moves forward with its 2012 promise to remove police from the courts.

Corrections Minister Elise Archer said correctional officers would become responsible for both court security and transporting defendants to and from the Launceston Reception Prison.

“The six new correctional officers will be in addition to the 30 we announced earlier this year, with 18 new recruits currently in training and advertisements in papers today to fill all remaining positions,” she said.

“The announcement continues our long term plan to be tough on crime and keep Tasmanians safe, and with more police on our streets and more Correctional Officers guarding our prisons, it is clear we are delivering for the community.”

Bass Liberal MHA Sarah Courtney said the community had “made it clear they want police out of the courts”.

“Police officers should be on the beat protecting Tasmanians and this is a great outcome for everyone here in the state’s north that will mean up to six extra police officers per day are free to patrol the streets and keep the community safe,” she said.

 “More police on the frontline will inevitably increase the chances of criminals being caught and kept off the streets while also improving the safety of frontline officers.”

Once recruited, the new correctional officers will undergo standard training and are expected to be in court by mid-2018.

The issue continues in the North-West with officers still required to sit in the Burnie Supreme Court and transport prisoners.

It is understood a project officer will be appointed by the state government to work towards removing those officers.

BACKGROUND

The public debate on the issue reignited in August when the police association revealed a four-week Launceston Supreme Court trial had cost more than $95,000 and 2500 “man-hours”, with eight police officers sitting in as security for the entire trial.

But it was not the first time the issue had been raised.

Former Northern Commander Ivan Dean previously told The Examiner he first raised the issue of officers being used as security in the courts back in 2001. 

Ivan Dean.

Ivan Dean.

He said police were on “babysitting duties” and it was “absurd” it had taken more than 16 years for the issue to be looked at.

An Examiner poll revealed nearly 53 per cent of voters did not think police should be sitting in court.

Ten per cent said they should and more than 36 per cent said it “depended on the seriousness of the case”.

ANNOUNCEMENT WELCOMED

Police Association of Tasmania president Pat Allen said it was “long overdue” and allowed Launceston’s police to be “where they are needed and supposed to be”.

“The Association has been campaigning for this for the past 25 years and I commend the state government for its decision,” he said.

The announcement brings the Launceston Supreme Court in line with the Hobart Supreme Court, where correctional officers carry out security duties and prisoner transport.

“Tasmania Police may still be required from time to time as security for higher profile trials in Launceston as does occur in Hobart on the rare occasion,” Mr Allen said.

Pat Allen.

Pat Allen.

While Mr Allen said it was a positive step forward for the North, he will continue to campaign for change in the North-West.

“The Association will continue its long-term goal of having Tasmania Police removed from similar duties at the Supreme Court in Burnie,” he said.

“It has never made any sense that three different systems of security were operating throughout the state since the early 1990s.”

Mr Allen said he hoped the promise would be delivered. 

“Promises have been made in the past by various governments over this issue, I can guarantee that the members will not take another disappointment should it not occur this time,” he said.