Magistrates to hear court matters State-wide for first time

  • Magistrates will take over hearing all remaining court matters from Justices of the Peace in WA
  • Justices of the Peace have had a long history of hearing criminal matters in WA courts, particularly in remote areas
  • A centralised service based in Perth will hear urgent matters across the State
  • For the first time in Western Australia, legally qualified magistrates will deal with all criminal matters in the State’s Magistrates Court locations.

    The announcement closes a long chapter of Justices of the Peace hearing criminal matters in Western Australia, particularly in rural and remote parts of the State where a magistrate was not always available.

    With the growing volume and legal complexity of criminal cases in Western Australia, Justices of the Peace have been gradually stepping back from hearing such matters in recent years, which is in line with recommendations made by the inquest into the tragic death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward in 2008.

    Attorney General John Quigley said a combination of videolink technology and the appointment of two new magistrates would allow the change to be made.

    Justices of the Peace will still be able to authorise search warrants for the time being if they have accessed the appropriate training.

    As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:

    “It is now fitting and appropriate that all matters coming before the WA courts are heard by a magistrate, who thanks to technology can be present in any court across the State.

    “One of the recommendations handed down by the then State Coroner in 2009 in relation to the tragic death of the late Mr Ward was that the ‘Department of the Attorney General review present procedures to extend the availability of video conferencing, and in the absence of available video conferencing, give consideration to increased use of telephone conferencing so that decisions, particularly those relating to the liberty of the subject, can be wherever possible made by qualified magistrates’.

    “In 2011, the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs Report on the Implementation of the Coroner’s Recommendations in Relation to the Death of Mr Ward and Related Matters reiterated the Coroner’s recommendations.

    “The decision by the McGowan Government to implement a centralised Magistrates Court constituted by legally qualified magistrates was made in consultation with key stakeholders.

    “It addresses the key recommendations of the Coroner and the Standing Committee as well as a majority of stakeholders who believe that Justices of the Peace should no longer perform judicial duties.

    “Many Justices of the Peace have volunteered their time over the years to assist the judicial system and I extend my appreciation to them for their significant contribution.”

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