Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division) Project
The Government is seeking your feedback on four new Bills that have been developed to replace the Justices Act 1959.
The Bills are scheduled for tabling in late May 2017. There will be at least 12 months between Royal Assent and proclamation to allow for all the necessary administrative changes to be made and for necessary Rules and Regulations to be completed.
The Bills are as follows:
Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division) Bill 2017
This Bill establishes the “high level” framework for the criminal and general jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court.
In addition to restating essential features of the Justices Act, this Bill provides legislative foundation for a number of initiatives, procedural changes and changes to the law, including the following:
- The Bill no longer refers to “justices” but rather to a “Magistrate”, a “bench justice” or an “authorised justice”, as the case requires. Each of those persons has expressly defined powers and is capable of constituting the “Court” in different circumstances.
- The Bill provides that summary proceedings will commence by lodgement of a “court attendance notice” instead of a “charge sheet” or “complaint”. This will consolidate procedures by allowing criminal prosecutions to commence by way of a single originating document. This model has worked successfully in New South Wales.
- The Bill includes a new framework for disclosure of prosecution evidence in summary offences. This will ensure that a defendant receives free disclosure of the case against them at the earliest opportunity. The disclosure provisions for indictable offences remain unchanged as they were agreed on by stakeholders and have been operating successfully since commencement in 2009.
- The Bill includes an obligation on a defendant to provide notice of an alibi and admissible opinion evidence similar to the requirements currently in the Criminal Code Act 1924.
- The Bill gives a specific statutory basis to case management procedures and sentence indication powers designed to promote the just and efficient determination of matters.
- The Bill increases the property value threshold for minor property crimes and electable property offences to $50,000.
- The Bill includes a detailed scheme for electing to have offences dealt with either by the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court.
- The Bill makes express provision for a defendant to attend court by audio or video link.
- The Bill includes a prohibition on the publication of any evidence, an account of, or any information connected with the preliminary proceedings without the leave of the Court.
Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division) Bill 2017 (pdf, 1.3 MB)
Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division) Rules are being developed to provide for electronic filing of applications, service of process and other similar procedural matters. The Rules will commence when the relevant legislation commences.
Restraint Orders Bill 2017
This Bill replaces Part XA of the Justices Act 1959. While the basic principles behind that Part are retained, the new Bill up-dates provisions and improves the operation and availability of restraint orders for the protection of individuals in the community.
Restraint Order Rules are being developed to provide for electronic filing of applications, service of process and other similar procedural matters. The Rules will commence when the relevant legislation commences.
Restraint Orders Bill 2017 (pdf, 499.5 KB)
Justices of the Peace Bill 2017
This Bill replaces Part II of the Justices Act 1959. Part III Extra-Territorial Justices is not being replaced as section 5 of the Oaths Act 2001 provides for attestation by justice in other jurisdictions.
The Bill is far more comprehensive than the current provisions. It sets out eligibility criteria and the duties of a Justice of the Peace to undergo specified training, be reasonably available and active, comply with the code of conduct and inform the Secretary of any relevant change in his or her personal circumstances. The Bill also contains specific provisions on the suspension or removal from office of a Justice of the Peace.
The Bill provides that if a current Justice of the Peace is eligible and notifies the Secretary in writing that he or she wishes to continue in the office then he or she will be taken to have been appointed as a Justice of the Peace under the new legislation.
Justices of the Peace Bill 2017 (pdf, 443.9 KB)
Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division – Consequential Amendments) Bill 2017
This Bill contains the major amendments to other legislation consequential on the replacement of the Court of Petty Sessions by the Magistrates Court (Criminal and General) Division. The following Acts are amended:
- Bail Act
- Consumer Affairs Act
- Coroners Act
- Family Violence Act
- Magistrates Court Act 1984
- Supreme Court Civil Procedure Act
Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division – Consequential Amendments) Bill 2017 (pdf, 375.6 KB)
Please send your comments on the Bill to the Department of Justice by 31 March 2017.
Department of Justice
Office of Strategic Legislation and Policy
GPO Box 825
Hobart TAS 7001