Industrial action has delayed bail court hearings in Sydney. Photo: Alice ArcherPrisoners have been left in police cells and Parramatta Bail Court was unable to hear any bail applications on Saturday because ongoing overcrowding in the state’s jails has meant prisoners cannot be transferred from police custody.
At least 40 people arrested overnight and placed in custody are stuck in holding cells at Surry Hills and Amber Laurel Correctional Centre at Penrith because Corrective Service staff were unable to transfer them.
Until prisoners are moved to the Corrective Services cells they can’t appear before the court via video link.
The situation left police prosecutors unable to proceed, Legal Aid lawyers without paperwork and the magistrate facing an empty courtroom.
It also raises the unusual situation that because prisoners need to appear before the court within 48 hours of being arrested the Supreme Court would have to consider whether or not they could continue to be held lawfully.
If not they would have to be released regardless off what charge they were detained on.
Magistrate Annette Sinclair said the court was ready to proceed.
“It is an entirely unusual situation,” she said. “Weekend bail courts are held so that people taken into custody on Friday do not need to spend any more time than necessary in custody.
“Legal aid and police prosecutors are all here but are unable to take instructions.
“I understand that some 40 people are in custody and we would expect some of these people would be released on bail.”
She said that the court would wait until 1pm before deciding whether to adjourn the court until Sunday.
A spokesman for Corrective Services said: “Delays in receiving offenders occasionally occur. In these cases offenders are held temporarily in court and police cells until prison beds are available.
“Corrective Services NSW has short, medium and long-term strategies to meet the demands on the prison system as the number of inmates increases.”
He said the situation was not a result of industrial action.
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