The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW (the Foundation) was engaged by the Department of Justice NSW to investigate the quality and utility of each court and tribunal’s data in informing policy and practice. This report focuses on Supreme Court data.
The report explores the quality and utility of data extracted from the Court data system, JusticeLink, by seeking to answer the following key questions of interest to the Department. For each question, we report on the quality of the data provided and any issues we encountered in using the data. We then attempt to provide answers to those questions using the extracted data, to assess the utility of the data for policy purposes.
The questions of interest were:
1. What types of civil matters are finalised in the Supreme Court?
2. What is the monetary value of Supreme Court cases?
3. Who is taking action against whom in the Supreme Court?
4. What type of Supreme Court cases are different entities involved in?
5. In which Supreme Court cases do defendants respond?
6. Who is represented in the Supreme Court and for what cases?
7. How do cases progress in the Supreme Court?
8. How are Supreme Court cases finalised?
9. How do Supreme Court amounts sought compare to awards made?
10. How long do Supreme Court cases take to finalise?
We found that, overall, the suitability of JusticeLink data for answering these questions varied considerably. The quality of the data varied in terms of its accuracy and completeness. It also varied in terms of its utility for analysis and for informing policy, with some data items requiring considerable additional classification and manipulation to produce the tables presented in this report. Generally speaking, data could not be taken directly from JusticeLink to answer the questions without considerable modification.
Key challenges to using Supreme Court data in its current form for policy purposes variously arise from:
- the data available and how it is defined
- the accuracy and/or completeness of data entered on the JusticeLink system
- how data can be and is entered and stored on JusticeLink
- how data can be retrieved and reported.
Critically, a number of these issues have their foundation in the JusticeLink database. A key feature of this system that affects data quality and its use for policy purposes is the fact that the JusticeLink system is a defendant-driven system, first implemented in NSW Courts for criminal matters. However, civil cases are primarily driven by the activities of plaintiffs (and applicants) and indeed, in some matters, there is no defendant. A defendant-driven data system makes the recording and management of civil cases more difficult and subject to error.