Lawyer receives scathing letter from chief magistrate
Mild-mannered local lawyer Mr Darrell Pannowitz has received a scathing letter from Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson after asking him to reconsider plans to remove Local Court sittings from Woy Woy courthouse.
Mr Pannowitz said he had, during attempts to keep the Local Court at Woy Woy, exchanged letters with Judge Henson.
He said he had received a "scathing letter of personal attack...which may be shared later".
In responding, Mr Pannowitz wrote to Judge Henson: "I have no ulterior or commercial motive to suggest a review of the proposal as you suggest.
"With the greatest respect Your Honour, the real issue is the proposal to cease a local service to two of my local communities without consultation with those communities and court users.
"I appreciate, however, that the Courts' administrators do not have to consult and can impose their whim.
"Imagine the outcry if it was proposed without consultation to cease Local Court sittings at the city of Orange and move them to Bathurst because it is only 20 minutes drive.
"And then say to the people of Bathurst that the Children's Court sittings there have been totally withdrawn and from now on you can take your children to Orange since it is only a 20 minute drive.
"These cities have roughly equivalent populations to Wyong and the Woy Woy Peninsula.
"The basis of my reasonable suggestion for a review of the proposal is to improve the Local Court service at Woy Woy for its local citizens and to improve the Children's Court service at Wyong for its local citizens via improved listing arrangements and rostering of judicial officers including the new Magistrate."
Mr Pannowitz said he was not surprised Woy Woy Court operated so efficiently.
"No doubt that efficiency is aided by its location at Woy Woy and the cooperation and efficiency of the local legal profession.
"Imagine how more effective and efficient the Local Court at Woy Woy would operate for the benefit of the whole Central Coast if it were allocated additional listings and rostering of Magistrates to deal with matters that arise in its near locality.
"I understand that it is a fair estimate that about 25 per cent of the matters finalised in the Local Court Gosford arise in the Woy Woy, Umina, Ettalong Peninsula area.
"My respectful submission is that it is in the interest of justice to have those matters dealt with in the location where they arise.
"I understand the government chooses to prioritise funding to services other than the Local and Children's Courts.
"However, decisions to cease court sittings should not be made just on the number of matters coming before the courts or times which are, at the end of the day determined by listing arrangements and rostering clerks.
"Decisions should be based first and foremost on providing a local service to local communities.
"Local or Children's Court sittings servicing the local issues in a local facility is the face of justice in its local community, providing comfort to local citizens.
"It should be about service to a local community whether it is in Woy Woy, Wyong or Woop Woop.
"I maintain my view which is shared by other locals that the courts' services to the Central Coast can be improved by altered listing arrangements and rostering of judicial officers, not shutting down sittings and forcing court clients to go elsewhere.
"It is a pity that an alternate view to those in charge of a public service, born of genuine concern for local citizens and to maintain services to them with no ulterior motive, is treated with such rancorous disdain.
"I again implore you to revisit the listing arrangements and rostering and to at least maintain the status quo or preferably improve the service," Mr Pannowitz said.
"I hope not, but suspect this plea will most likely be disregarded".
Mr Pannowitz told Peninsula News the announcement had not been unexpected but meant "the Peninsula loses again".
"There was no preliminary proposal to discuss, no consultation with local Woy Woy practitioners or court users or clients," Mr Pannowitz said.
"It was a done deal but I am happy we attempted to stand up for our local community," he said.
Mr Pannowitz is a lawyer with Tonkin Drysdale Partners.
His voluntary community service includes serving on the board of the non-profit organisation which operates Peninsula Village and Cooinda Village retirement villages.
Letters, 3 Feb 2017
Darrell Pannowitz, Tonkin Drysdale Partners
Reporter: Jackie Pearson