The case of a man who served more than twice his minimum sentence while waiting for his appeal to be heard "reflects that the system is not coping", a County Court judge says.
Jack Alistair Bradley, 33, was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court on May 14 to 13 months' imprisonment with a non-parole period of four months after pleading guilty to 27 charges, mostly dishonesty and driving offences.
These included thefts, committing indictable offences on bail, burglary, possessing controlled weapons, handling stolen goods, property damage, trespassing, failing to answer bail, failing to stop on police direction, unlicensed driving and fraudulently altering a document under the Road Safety Act.
An appeal against the sentence was lodged, but was only heard yesterday - more than six months after he was sentenced.
As of yesterday, Bradley had served 247 days - about eight months - in custody.
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The court heard Bradley had applied for parole but the parole board had not heard his application, likely because of his pending appeal.
"This is a most unusual case and reflects that the system is not coping, because the appeal has not been heard until today... meaning that the appellant has now served more than twice the intended non-parole period imposed by the magistrate... It can be seen that the disposition imposed by the learned magistrate has not been acceded to," Judge Paul Lacava said.
"That's because the appeal, once lodged, has languished in the court list, and probably would not have been reached today had it not been for the fact that other trials listed resolved in pleas."
Prosecutor David Cordy said the appeal was first listed for May 30 but was adjourned, even though the prosecution was ready to proceed.
"In any event, it's been sitting around since May," Judge Lacava replied.
He also said the "system is breaking down", and there seemed to be an assumption that appeals on sentences handed down in the Magistrates' Court would not be heard for several months.
"I'm almost speechless," Judge Lacava said.
When asked about wait times for appeals, a Victorian government spokesperson said the government would work with the judiciary to support magistrates and judges.
"The government has funded more magistrates, more judges and more prosecutors to meet growing demand and reduce the caseload of magistrates and judges," the spokesperson said.
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The County Court website states that the criminal division of the court hears about 3500 appeals each year.
During yesterday's hearing, Bradley's defence counsel Eleanor Millar said the appeal was made on the grounds that the original sentence was excessive given her client's limited criminal history, and that he had not received the opportunity to undertake a community corrections order in the past.
The court heard Bradley had schizoaffective disorder and/or bipolar affective disorder, as well as a possible brain injury acquired at birth.
Ms Millar said Bradley needed assistance in the community and a corrections order would have been an appropriate way to provide this.
Mr Cordy said the eight months Bradley had spent in prison might have been a salutary lesson.
Judge Lacava granted the appeal, although he noted that the large difference between the maximum sentence and the non-parole period indicated that the sentencing magistrate had taken into account Bradley's history of mental illness.
He instead sentenced Bradley to 247 days' imprisonment, which was time already served.
Bradley was also disqualified from driving for six months, effective from May 14.