Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions has told a court the justice system is no longer in crisis and Covid-era sentencing discounts should end.

Appearing in the Victorian Supreme Court on Wednesday, Kerri Judd KC argued the “backlog” of cases caused by the pandemic had ended and guilty pleas should no longer attract higher sentence mitigation.

“We, for the first time, submit today there ought be no Worboyes sentencing benefit,” she said.

“We say the administration of criminal justice is no longer beleaguered … and there is no more backlog.”

Ms Judd appeared to prosecute the case of Darren Chalmers, 56, who is to be sentenced after confessing to the cold-case slaying of Annette Steward in Geelong.

Chalmers was charged with murder in March this year after he was extradited from Perth. He pleaded guilty during a brief hearing on August 11.

The Worboyes discount, as it’s known in legal circles, refers to a landmark 2021 Court of Appeal judgment that requires judges to increase sentencing discounts for early guilty pleas to discourage cases going to trial.

The judgment established a precedent that persons pleading guilty during Covid should receive a greater discount than they would normally receive — a recognition of saving the court’s time and assisting to clear a backlog caused by ongoing pandemic restrictions.

Ms Judd’s junior counsel, Sarah Lenthall, argued that Justice Andrew Tinney should not include a Worboyes discount for Chalmers because “there is no work for Worboyes to do”.

“The criminal justice system is no longer in a state of crisis as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

“The factual basis that underpins Worboyes is no longer there … This is the first time the Crown is making the submission that the work of Worboyes is done.”

Ms Lenthall told the court the backlog had been cleared in the Supreme and County Courts that were now operating as “pre-pandemic levels”.

She submitted that while the two higher courts had been “business as usual” for some time, it had been established that Worboyes should be seen as a “whole system approach”.

In cases heard this year, prosecutors have been reluctant to submit that the Worboyes discount is unnecessary, arguing instead for “negligible weight” be given to a guilty plea because the Magistrates’ Court continued to have a backlog.

Ms Lenthall submitted that while the Magistrates’ Court had an 8 per cent higher case load now, the court was no longer at “crisis point”.

“The Magistrates’ Court is operating with a higher degree of efficiency and is finalising more cases than it is initiating,” she said.

Chalmers’ counsel, Nicholas Goodenough, conceded it was clear there was a decline in the Covid-era backlog but argued the discount still had “some weight”.

“Worboyes will become a foot point in a legal essay … but not yet,” he said.

“All the indicia point to Worboyes having an end date … my submission is that is not today.”

He told the court that Chalmers’ defence would rely on the “hangover of extra cases” within the Magistrates’ Court.

“Across the totality of the court system there is still a delay,” he said.

The Office of Public Prosecutions declined to comment.

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