Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory
The Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory is a court of summary jurisdiction in Canberra, Australia. The court deals with the majority of less serious criminal cases and the majority of small civil cases in that territory. The court is located on Knowles Place near London Circuit, Canberra at Civic. It is a relatively new building, having previously occupied the older building next door to it which is now occupied by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
The current Chief Magistrate is Lorraine Walker, who succeeded now Justice Burns in the role. Burns was appointed to the position in December 2009. Burns replaced departing Chief Magistrate Ron Cahill, whose appointment came to an end on 10 November 2009, with the position filled in the interregnum by Magistrate Peter Dingwall.
The jurisdiction of the ACT Magistrates Court encompasses the entirety of the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory. Under the Jervis Bay Acceptance Act 1915 (Cth), the laws of the Australian Capital Territory apply in that particular area. Magistrates from the ACT travel to Jervis Bay on a regular basis to hold court for the region.
The ACT Magistrates Court is established under, and has jurisdiction under, the Magistrates Court Act 1930 (ACT). It has a summary jurisdiction to deal with most criminal offences other than serious criminal matters such as murder and sexual assaults.
It also has jurisdiction to hear civil cases that are between $10,000 and $250,000 in value, although it cannot hear cases in which the title to land is in dispute. Any amount in dispute under $10,000 is dealt with by the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal.
Magistrates are also justices of the peace by virtue of their appointment as a magistrate.
The court is constituted by either magistrates or special magistrates. Generally, magistrates sit alone. A special magistrates may also constitute the court.
Magistrates and special magistrates are appointed by the executive. Magistrates must retire at 65 years of age, whilst special magistrates must retire at 70 years of age.
The executive must also appoint a Chief Magistrate. The chief magistrate is responsible for the prompt discharge of the court’s business, and may in consultation with a magistrate, decide the types of cases which a magistrate will hear.
The current members of the Court are Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker and Magistrates Peter Dingwall, Karen Fryar, Beth Campbell, Peter Morrison and Bernadette Boss.
Criminal cases are usually commenced by laying an information before a magistrate. An information is similar to a complaint or a charge. The magistrate may then either issue a summons for the defendant to attend court voluntarily or may issue a warrant for his or her arrest.
Depending on the seriousness of the crime, the magistrate may sentence the person if found guilty, or may commit the person for trial to the Supreme Court.
Hearings are heard in open court unless there is a law or a good reason for the matter to be heard in closed court.
In certain circumstances, a party unhappy with a decision may appeal to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.