Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory

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Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory
Coat of Arms of Canberra.svg
Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory.jpg
The Magistrates Court Building located in Civic, Canberra, completed in 1996.
Established
  • 25 November 1930 (1930-11-25) (as the Court of Petty Sessions)[1]
  • 1 February 1986 (1986-02-01) (as the Magistrates Court)[1]
Jurisdiction
Location London Circuit at Civic, Canberra
Composition method Executive appointment following advice of the Attorney-General
Authorized by Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly via the Magistrates Court Act 1930 (ACT)
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory
Judge term length Magistrates must retire at 65 years of age
Website www.courts.act.gov.au/magistrates
Chief Magistrate
Currently Lorraine Walker
Since 13 October 2011 (2011-10-13)

The Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory is a court of summary jurisdiction that deals with the majority of less serious criminal law matters and the majority of small civil law matters in the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory.

The current Chief Magistrate is Lorraine Walker, appointed with effect from 13 October 2013. Seven magistrates assist the Chief Magistrate in hearing matters before the Court.

The court is located on Knowles Place near London Circuit at Civic, in Canberra, the capital city of Australia; in a special purpose building that was opened in 1996,[1] having previously occupied the older building next door to it which is now occupied by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.

Jurisdiction[edit]

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),[2] the laws of the Australian Capital Territory apply in that particular area. Magistrates from the ACT travel to Jervis Bay Village 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).[3] 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 and Administrative Tribunal.

Composition[edit]

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.

Chief Magistrate[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker 13 October 2013 (2013-10-13) 2 years, 323 days [4][5]

As Chief Magistrate, Walker succeeded Justice John Burns, who served as Chief Magistrate between 15 December 2009 and 29 July 2011. Burns had previously replaced Chief Magistrate Ron Cahill, who served between 28 March 1985 and 17 November 2009, with the position filled in the interregnum by Magistrate Peter Dingwall.[6] Clarence Hermes served as Chief Magistrate between 4 December 1980 and 29 February 1984. Charles Kilduff was the inaugural Chief Magistrate who served between 28 November 1974 and 14 March 1980. Prior to 1974, resident magistrates or visiting magistrates, appointed by the Government of New South Wales also holding permanent appointments in either Queanbeyan or Goulburn were responsible for the Court of Petty Sessions, as the Magistrates Court was known prior to 1 February 1986.[7]

Magistrates[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Magistrate Peter Dingwall 26 April 1990 (1990-04-26) 26 years, 127 days [4]
Magistrate Karen Fryar AM 6 September 1993 (1993-09-06) 22 years, 360 days
Magistrate Beth Campbell 5 August 1998 (1998-08-05) 18 years, 26 days
Magistrate Peter Morrison 14 February 2012 (2012-02-14) 4 years, 199 days
Magistrate Bernadette Boss 8 May 2012 (2012-05-08) 4 years, 115 days
Magistrate Robert Cook 11 September 2013 (2013-09-11) 2 years, 355 days
Magistrate Glenn Theakston 17 May 2016 (2016-05-17) 106 days

Magistrates are also justices of the peace by virtue of their appointment as a magistrate. The inaugrual magistrate, entitled a Stipendiary Magistrate, was Francis Charles Patrick Keane who was appointed on 30 November 1949.[7]

Commencing cases[edit]

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.

In serious cases, police officers may arrest a person and bring them directly before the magistrate. In any case, the person may be remanded in custody or may be released on bail. 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.

Appeals[edit]

In certain circumstances, decisions made by the Magistrates Court may be appealed to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. The Magistrates Court does not hear matters on appeal.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "History of the ACT Magistrates Court". ACT Magistrates Court. ACT Government. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  2. ^ Jervis Bay Acceptance Act 1915 (Cth)
  3. ^ Magistrates Court Act 1930 (ACT)
  4. ^ a b "Current ACT Magistrates". ACT Magistrates Court. ACT Government. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Corbell, Simon (28 November 2011). On the occasion of the appointment of Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker (PDF) (Speech). Magistrates Court, Canberra. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "Burns welcomed as new ACT chief magistrate". ABC News. Australia. 16 December 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Former and Current Magistrates". ACT Magistrates Court. ACT Government. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 

External links[edit]