A visibly furious Magistrate Holmes was forced to take personal notes and delay sentencing and other substantial matters yesterday by an audio fault in the Glen Innes Local Court's audio system.
The Local Court was scheduled to start hearing matters on Wednesday at 9:30am, and tends to actually start at 10:00am. Instead court staff were left desperately trying to fix a broken audio recording system while litigants and their families milled around outside waiting for the court to open. Some had taken time off work to attend.
The court actually heard its first matter around 11.32am, without audio support.
Magistrate Michael Holmes apologised to a number of people including many lawyers who appeared before him, but he had little choice but to delay. Magistrate's sentencing remarks are recorded through a system which is fixed in place in the courthouse.
He joked he had been "sending threatening emails" from his chambers all morning and laughed that someone said it might have been caused by rats.
Audio is important for use in a potential appeal against a sentence and to provide a clear record for parties involved in a legal matter, among other reasons.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said they have "arranged for the urgent replacement of the faulty sound recording equipment at Glen Innes Courthouse".
"In addition, the department has arranged for backup sound recording devices to be available for dispatch to court locations across NSW. This will help ensure court proceedings can run smoothly," a statement said.
There were more than 36 individual defendants who had matters listed to be heard on March 13, including several to be sentenced. Many will have to appear again.
Two lawyers had traveled from Inverell, one from Armidale, and officers of the court included a police prosecutor, a sheriff, and two court staff. Police and corrections personnel, juvenile justice and others are occasionally called on as well; they were all inconvenienced.
One lawyer estimated the cost of the hour and a half wait in the thousands.
The building was built in 1873.