The state government says security in court is a high priority, despite a claim by the opposition that there are fewer sheriffs on duty in courts across the Hunter.
Opposition spokeswoman for the Hunter Sonia Hornery said there had been times in Maitland and Newcastle courts recently when a sheriff had not been on duty.
But Attorney General Brad Hazzard said Australian Federal Police were conducting an independent review of court security across the state at his request.
“That review will help assist how we as a community and government respond to security requirements across the 150 local courts across the state,” he said.
“I want magistrates and judges to know, on behalf of the community and the government, we respect the work they do and we want to make sure that nobody who uses the courts or who works at the courts is at risk.”
Ms Hornery said the government had shown contempt for the justice system by reducing the presence of sheriffs in courts.
“The shortage of sheriff officers has caused delays to criminal trials in Newcastle in the past and we now see Maitland court having days where sheriff officers are not present,” she said.
“Sheriff officers and officers of the court play a crucial role in the smooth operation of our courts and the safety of all who find themselves at court, sometimes in very horrific circumstances.”
Liberal candidate for Maitland Steve Thomson said sheriffs maintained a presence at Maitland Court House.
But he said the Department of Justice would not release specific details about its security arrangements.
Maitland candidate for Labor Jenny Aitchison said the situation was an example of government cuts impacting Hunter communities.
According to the NSW Justice website, sheriffs provide security and support services to make sure courts are safe and successful places where business runs smoothly.
“Court security underpins the safe and efficient functioning of the courts and justice system,” the website noted.
“Uniformed sheriff’s officers ensure the safety of judicial officers, legal professionals and the public in all NSW courts and tribunals.”