Allegations against contractor Auscript of poor court transcripts.
The Newman Government announced the outsourcing of court transcription and recording services to Auscript on February 22, 2013. The then Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, declared that this would save $6 million. The move ultimately resulted in the shutting down of the State Reporting Bureau (SRB).
“The outsourcing of transcription services is expected to save the State up to $6 million annually,” he stated at the time.
However, on August 7, 2014, it was revealed that Auscript was a LNP donor, who paid $2,000 to attend a function. Chief executive, Peter Wyatt, also donated $5,000 to the LNP. Another company he was director of gave an amount of $5,000 to the party. The company strongly denied it was given special treatment in the tender process for the contract because of its donation links to the party.
At the same time, lawyers complained of skyrocketing transcript costs with defendants paying between $300 and $400-an-hour. They also questioned accuracy of some of the transcripts.
Queensland’s President of the Court of Appeal, Margaret McMurdo, was also critical of some transcripts describing them as “often poor”. She made reference to them in the 2013-2014 Queensland Supreme Court annual report which Queensland Chief Justice Tim Carmody ultimately takes responsibility for.
“The quality of the transcripts, however, remains variable, and like last year is often poor,” the report read. “Sometimes matters are transcribed incorrectly or not at all. Inappropriate paragraphing is common. When the accuracy of a portion of transcript is critical to a ground of appeal, it is often necessary for the judges to check the transcript against the original recording. Transcripts of appeal hearings are sometimes delivered outside the timelines time set by Auscript. These manifest transcript problems can delay the timely delivery of judgments.”
This week, Amy Remeikis revealed, “The state’s Auditor-General will be asked to investigate how courtrooms holding the potential jury pool for the Gerard Baden-Clay murder trial and the media covering the case, were recorded. In documents obtained under Right to Information laws, the Department of Justice and Attorney General raised concerns in June last year, over “out of session” recordings of court rooms, which were referred to as “white noise”. The courts included in the email raising the concerns included the Banco court, where the potential juror pool was held, the court where the jury was empanelled and the public overflow courtroom, which was set aside for the public and members of the media to view the “high profile matter”.”: Baden-Clay jury pool was ‘recorded’ by Auscript.
Unlike the SRB who switched off recordings the moment an adjournment was called, Auscript continued to record “out of session” discussions.
Auscript General Manager Kate Gaske confirmed that, “As with all courts across Australia, this does result in out-of-session’ material being recorded, however these ‘out-of-session’ recordings are not made available, this process is in accordance with relevant legislation. This is the same practice that has been happening in the Queensland courts since digitalisation in around 2006. The contract also stipulates how this material is to be handled and securely stored and Auscript rigorously follows these protocols. We are bound by strict confidentiality in accordance with our contract with the Department and we are not at liberty to discuss the operational details of individual cases.”
Auscript welcomed the move with Peter Wyatt adding, “All we ask is that when that investigation is complete that its findings are made publicly available, and that those people who are making false claims about my business and my hard-working staff have the guts to stand up and apologise.”
— Auscript (@Auscript) April 22, 2015