Corrections Minister Elise Archer says while police officers will be freed from guard duties in Launceston’s Supreme Court by mid next year, replacing officers in the North-West’s Burnie Supreme Court is “more complex”.
Ms Archer said a project officer was being employed to continue investigating the particular challenges of replacing police with correction officers in Burnie’s court.
“There’s some complexities that are different to the Northern courts arrangements, not least of all that there’s no correctional facility up there, so it needs to address different issues,” Ms Archer said.
Opposition corrections spokeswoman Lara Giddings said Labor welcomed the news that police officers would be removed from the Launceston Supreme Court but questioned where the funding source for the new correctional officers.
She asked why it had taken so long for the state government to act on its election promise and why it did not address the North-West’s similar issues.
"Why has it taken the Government so long to act and why aren't police being removed from courts in the North-West as well as Launceston?” she said.
Labor’s economic directions statement committed $300,000 to removing police from courts in both Launceston and Burnie.
The cost of replacing police officers with correctional officers is expected to total around $789,000 of additional recurrent expenditure that had been announced in the budget, Ms Archer said.
The officers will be replaced in their duties by six new corrections officers, with a recruitment campaign launched on Saturday.
“Labor had 16 years to fix this problem, I understand the Police Association has been on this issue for 25 years,” she said.
“It’s taken a Liberal government in our first term to address this problem.”
Police Association president Pat Allen said the association would continue to actively lobby for officers to be freed up from guard duties in Burnie.
He said the association would take serious further action should the state government’s announcement not be followed through as promised.
Between two to five police officers are required on sitting days at the Supreme Court in Launceston for security duties and prisoner transport, which Mr Allen said was frustrating for officers who would rather be outside doing their job.
He said using police in courts had begun in the 1800s and simply become tradition, which did not suit the needs of today’s society.