Court reporters transcribe legal proceedings as they happen. They have specialist skills and are valued by all users of the justice system. The court transcripts they produce need to be accurate and available quickly and cheaply. Due to their specialised skills, court reporters have discretion to invoke editorial licence, halt proceedings if there is a need for clarification and ask a witness to repeat what they have said if it was not audible or clear.
The Government proposed to replace its high quality and expert in-house court reporting service with a user-pays private service for civil proceedings in the Supreme Court. This private service would only produce sound recordings which would then need to be transcribed by a typist. The new service would be more expensive to users, less efficient with lengthy delays, and produce inferior-quality transcripts. It would also have an unfair impact on women, as the vast majority of court reporters who would lose their jobs are female.
The court-reporters’ union, the Public Service Association (PSA), intervened to ensure that no court reporters lost their jobs. However, court reporters who retire or leave are not being replaced, and their work is being done by outsourced sound recorders. Privatisation, and the erosion of the quality of legal proceedings in NSW, is still happening but at a slower rate.