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First review in more than a century for Justices Act

Former District Court judge and Childrens Court President Michael Shanahan AM has been tasked with the first comprehensive review of Queensland’s 135-year-old Justices Act 1886.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman announced on Saturday that retired judge Shanahan – who served as a District Court judge for 20 years until stepping down in August 2019 – had been appointed to lead the historic review.

“The Justices Act 1886 is used every day in Queensland and is fundamental to our criminal justice system,” Ms Fentiman said.

“This review is well overdue, it’s been 135 years since the Act was introduced in Queensland Parliament, and it’s crucial our justice system can continue to operate effectively for Queenslanders now and into the future.

“While the Justices Act has been amended and added to over the years, it has not been comprehensively reviewed, and many of its provisions carry the form and style of another era.

“The review highlights the Palaszczuk Government’s significant commitment to reform of the administration of justice in Queensland.

“I am delighted that retired District Court Judge and former President of the Childrens Court of Queensland Michael Shanahan has agreed to conduct this important review to create a new framework for contemporary and effective criminal procedure laws in Queensland’s Magistrates Courts.”

Ms Fentiman said the review would involve widespread consultation, including with the Queensland judiciary, the Chief Magistrate and court staff, prosecution agencies, legal stakeholders, and the community generally.

She said the State Government had committed to introducing new Magistrates Court criminal procedure legislation that supported a modern, fair and timely criminal justice system before the end of this term.

“The reviewer is tasked with making recommendations to guide preparation of draft legislation,” she said.

“This is a ground-breaking review, especially given the important role Magistrates Courts have in dealing with criminal matters in Queensland.”

Mr Shanahan served as President of the Childrens Court of Queensland from 2011 to 2018. In 2018, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his significant service to the judiciary and legal profession and as an advocate and mentor for juvenile and Indigenous justice issues.

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