Implementing the International Framework for Court Excellence
In late 2008, the Court agreed to adopt and to implement the International Framework for Court Excellence. The Framework was developed by an International Consortium for Court Excellence including the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Federal Judicial Center (USA), National Center for State Courts (USA) and Subordinate Courts of Singapore, assisted by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice and other organisations.
The Framework provides a methodology for assessing a court’s performance against seven areas of court excellence and guidance for courts intending to improve their performance. The Framework takes a holistic approach to court performance. It requires a whole court approach to delivering court excellence rather than simply presenting a limited range of performance measures directed to limited aspects of court activity.
The seven areas of court excellence are as follows.
To provide organisational leadership that promotes a proactive and professional management culture, pursues innovation and is accountable and open.
To formulate, implement and review plans and policies that focus on achieving the Court’s purpose and improving the quality of its performance.
To ensure the Court’s proceedings and dispute resolution services are fair, effective and efficient.
To maintain and reinforce public trust and confidence in the Court and the administration of justice.
To understand and take into account the needs and perceptions of its users relating to the Court’s purpose.
To manage the Court’s human, material and financial resources properly, effectively and with the aim of gaining the best value.
To provide practical and affordable access to information, court processes and services.
Since 2009, the Court has taken the following actions to improve the Court’s performance in each of the seven areas of court excellence:
- adopting and publicising the Court's statement of purpose
- developing a comprehensive handbook for Commissioners
- implementing a formal process for review of the performance of Commissioners including adopting appropriate policies and undertaking appraisal sessions
- adopting and implementing a mentoring program for newly appointed Commissioners
- adopting and expanding the Court's continuing professional development program, including accredited mediation training
- implementing achievement planning for all staff in the Registry
- arranging management training for Registry staff
- improving the reliability of the Court’s registration and management system, including introduction of a new computerised court information system
- adopting and revising practice notes to facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolution of proceedings
- adopting numerous policies to achieve the Court’s purpose and improve the quality of its performance.
- improving information on the Court’s website, including establishing webpages on specialised areas of the Court’s jurisdiction such as trees, mining, biodiversity and heritage
- publication of a court newsletter with the latest legislation, decisions and changes in practice and procedure
- expanding the coverage of the Court’s performance in the Annual Review including in relation to the seven areas of court excellence
Sentencing database for environmental offences
The Court, in conjunction with the Judicial Commission of New South Wales, established in 2008 the world’s first sentencing database for environmental offences, as part of the Judicial Information Research System (JIRS).
Sentencing statistics for environmental offences display sentencing graphs and a range of objective and subjective features relevant to environmental offences. Judges are able to access directly the remarks on sentencing behind each graph.
During the year, the Court provides statistics on sentences imposed by the Court for environmental offences and for contempt proceedings. The statistics are loaded promptly onto JIRS. To ensure accuracy, the sentence statistics are audited on a quarterly basis by the Judicial Commission. The audits have revealed satisfactory results.
Education and participation in the community
The Court has a high national and international reputation as a leading specialist environment court. There is significant demand for the exchange of knowledge and experience within the national and international legal and judicial communities. Judges and Commissioners of the Court actively participate in capacity building and information exchange by presenting papers and participating as trainers in a variety of conferences, seminars, workshops, giving lectures at educational institutions and presiding at moot courts.
The Court also regularly hosts international and national delegations to the Court. For more information about these activities, see the Court’s Annual Reviews.
Continuing professional development for judicial officers
In 2008, the Court adopted a Continuing Professional Development Policy for the Court. The purpose of continuing professional development is to enhance professional expertise, facilitate development of professional knowledge and skills, and promote the pursuit of juristic excellence.
The policy sets a standard for each Judge and Commissioner of the Court of five days (or 30 hours) each calendar year of professional development activities relating to their professional duties.
To assist in meeting the standard, the Court and the Judicial Commission of New South Wales provide an annual conference of two days (12 hours) and a twilight seminar series providing at least 12 hours (2 days) of professional development activities a year. The Court also provides or arranges skills training, such as training in conciliation and mediation, court craft and judgment writing.
Consultation with court users
A Court Users Group was established in 1996 as a consultative committee comprising of representatives from interested organisations. The Group meets four times a year and assists with improving Court services by making recommendations to the Chief Judge about:
- improving the functions and services provided by the Court; and
- ensuring services and facilities of the Court are adapted to the needs of litigants and their representatives.
The Group has an advisory role and has no authority to require any action or change. However, its deliberations have been a catalyst for, and provided valuable comment on, a number of initiatives.
A Mining Court Users Group was established in 2010 as a consultative committee comprising of representatives from mining related organisations and mining lawyers. The Group meets four times a year to enable two-way communication in relation to the Court’s functions in hearing and disposing of proceedings in the Court’s mining jurisdiction. The Group has an advisory role and has no authority to require any action or change.