THE Law Institute of Victoria has called for upgrades to Horsham's courthouse.
President Stuart Webb and chief executive Adam Awty visited the Roberts Avenue facility on Wednesday last week as part of a north-west Victorian tour to discuss access to justice and local issues.
Mr Webb said Horsham courthouse posed challenges because it ran two courts - one used as a Magistrates' court and the other as a County or Supreme court.
"They prioritise certain matters - criminal, family violence and child protection, for example - and that's completely understandable given the nature of the legal matter. But if you have a civil dispute, if you want to sue someone, you're going to wait months to get a hearing because it will keep on being bumped," Mr Webb said.
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"There are always challenges in locations like Horsham to make sure there are enough people doing the work.
"They will be building new courthouse in Bendigo in the next three or four years, and Horsham, as a regional centre, should be looked at seriously as an opportunity to develop a new court that facilitates more in the district."
Mr Webb said he was pleased to hear there was a dedicated family violence magistrate in Horsham - in Magistrate Noreen Toohey.
Mr Webb and Mr Awty visited members of the Wimmera Law Association - a group of solicitors in the region - during their time in Horsham.
The association's president Patrick Smith agreed there was a need for another court, a bigger waiting room and more meeting rooms.
"We sometimes have too many people in the waiting room," he said. "That can include accused perpetrators and the victims. That has normally tried to be avoided, but when we have two courts running - say the County Court and the Magistrates' Court - that can be difficult.
"Finding a meeting room with a solicitor can be incredibly difficult as well. If we had an extra courtroom, that would reduce the stress on the court list as well. When we have the Magistrates' Court and County Court sitting, the Family Violence Court can't sit.
"Quite often, you'll have people waiting for their notice to be called all day, which is tough on the clients - especially when they are paying privately-funded lawyers to be there as well."
"There is talk of upgrades to the court at the moment, and that's more around the safety of getting the accused from custody into the courtroom."
Mr Webb said the institute advocated to the attorney-general, the Department of Justice and Court Services Victoria.
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