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Chief Justice rallies legal profession for challenges ahead

Queensland’s Chief Justice has used this year’s exchange of Christmas greetings ceremony as a rallying cry to the legal profession to unite and embrace the myriad “challenges” and “changes” ahead in 2023.

Chief Justice Helen Bowskill headed up a who’s who of the legal fraternity at this morning’s annual ceremony in the QEII Courts of Law ceremonial Banco Court to recognise newly minted silks and to celebrate the festive season.

Fourteen distinguished barristers were sworn-in as Kings’s Counsel (KC) as part of the ceremony, with Chief Justice Bowskill offering words of encouragement and reminding them of their duties to the court and the community in their new roles.

She also took the opportunity to acknowledge the dedicated hard work and commitment all legal practitioners demonstrated throughout a difficult year.

“This ceremony recognises the traditional relationship with the court, its judges and barristers who appear before them,” she said.

“We all have a role to play in protecting that most fundamental element of our democratic society – the rule of law – and in doing so encouraging the public to have trust and confidence in the courts and judiciary.

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“Although we have a lot to be proud of, there are challenges ahead for the legal profession.

“Legal practice can be very stressful. We are dealing, at times, with highly distressed people in situations of conflict and dispute or trauma. There are time pressures, money pressures and unsustainable workloads which can lead to physical and mental unwellness.

“And, there are the deeply regrettable statistics of harassment and bullying within the profession. Of course there is also the enormous satisfaction and meaning that comes from the work we do.

“To address these challenges, we must make some changes – individually, organisationally and structurally. The good thing is we can do something about it.

“2022 has been a year of enormous change for the Supreme Court. In the space of three months – March to May – we had a new Chief Justice, a new Senior Judge Administrator and a new President of the Court of Appeal (COA).

“We said farewell to Justice (Hugh) Fraser from the (COA) in July, and welcomed Justice (Jean) Dalton and Justice (Peter) Flanaghan as judges of (the COA). We also welcomed three new justices to the trial division – Justice (Sean) Cooper, Justice (Melanie) Hindman and Justice (Lincoln) Crowley.

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“Not withstanding these enormous changes, we remain a collegiate, happy and hard working group of people serving the people of Queensland in the administration of justice. And, we are very grateful for the support and assistance that members of the legal profession – both barristers and solicitors – have provided to us in that endeavour throughout the year.”

Chief Justice Bowskill also acknowledged numerous changes in other court jurisdictions.

“The District Court saw quite a few changes,” she said. “There was the departure of one of its most experienced and loved judges – Judge Julie Dick SC – and it welcomed new Judge (Jodie) Wooldridge KC … and also Judge (Terry) Gardiner taking up his role … as a judge following his term as Chief Magistrate.

“The District Court recently bid farewell to Judge (Ray) Rinaudo – a former Chief Magistrate and President of Queensland Law Society.

“The Magistrates Courts have also seen significant changes. There was the new Chief Magistrate (Judge Janelle Brassington) and the new recent appointment of another Deputy Chief Magistrate (Stephen) Courtney. The Magistrates Court also saw the retirement of some very experience judicial officers and the appointment of nine new magistrates.”

Director of Public Prosecutions Carl Heaton KC, who spoke on behalf of absent Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman, said the annual end-of-year exchange of festive greetings was an opportunity for all legal practitioners to unite in a spirit of goodwill.

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“It is a perfect opportunity to speak on the year that has been, and to anticipate the year that is to come,” Mr Heaton said.

“Our justice system if far from static. There has been much taking place in 2022 with plenty of reviews and reforms which impact the justice system for those who work in it and for those who use it.

“An historic review of the administration of justice in Queensland began earlier this year. The independent review into the Magistrates Court’s criminal procedure laws contained in the Justices Act of 1886 is under way.

“The Act has long been recognised as requiring modernisation and is being comprehensively reviewed for the first time in over a century. The review will make recommendations by 30 April 2023, for contemporary and effective criminal procedure laws to, ultimately, replace that Act.

“There will be further changes to how our courts deal with domestic and family violence and how the criminal justice system interacts with women and girls as a result of the reforms recommended in the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce report.

“Amongst many of the reforms (suggested by the taskforce, there will be) the establishment of a Judicial Commission, in consultation with the judiciary, the (Queensland) Bar Association and (Queensland) Law Society. Significant work (on that) is already under way.”

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QLS President Kara Thomson, speaking on behalf of the state’s almost 15,800 solicitors, said the Society cherished ceremonies such as todays for the manner in which they united practitioners.

“It gives me immense pleasure, and it is with pride that on behalf of the (QLS) and our members, I extend best wishes and glad tidings to all. I for one can’t wait to see with 2023 brings,” Ms Thomson said.

“We are now on the eve of 150 years since the very first meeting of solicitors forming the Queensland Law Society. It was a group of professionals who came together to makes things better – much as we do now.

“Those pioneers saw, as key, the mission to preserve the integrity of the solicitors’ branch of the profession, aid the diffusion of legal knowledge and to aid reforms that are likely to be beneficial in the law.

“150-years later, our focus on good law, good lawyers for the public good remains true to (QLS) origins.”

Before wrapping up the ceremony, Chief Justice Bowskill noted that Ms Thomson’s tenure as QLS President ends on 31 December.

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“Because this is the last time (she) will address the Court… we’d like to thank you Ms Thomson for your beautifully crafted and thoughtful words that you have shared with us throughout this year and your hard work,” her Honour said.

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