Those appearing in the Cairns Magistrates Court will notice a new “friendly face” at the bench but take note Magistrate Scott Luxton is still impartial.
That was how His Honour was described at Friday’s welcoming ceremony for the two new Cairns Magistrates, including Magistrate Mandy Bowen, held in Brisbane.
Queensland Law Society Vice-President Rebecca Fogerty addressed the court, saying Townsville-based practitioners, both defence and prosecution, could not think of a better appointment for North Queensland.
“You have been described as very accomplished and having the right outlook and temperament to be a great magistrate,” Rebecca said.
“One practitioner commented that you tick all of the boxes required and expected of a Magistrate. He is of good temperament which in turn fosters respect for the judicial system. He is fair to all parties and makes well-considered decisions. It is rare to hear the words ‘Magistrate Luxton’ and ‘appeal’ in the same sentence.
“He is a friendly face on the bench – but not too friendly that makes one think he is not impartial.
“The overwhelming consensus about your appointment is ‘it’s about time’.
“Your Townsville colleagues have suggested that the Cairns community are fortunate indeed to have secured your permanent appointment and that – hopefully – you will eventually make your way down the Bruce Highway and re-join the Townsville bench once again. “
As an Acting Magistrate role, His Honour has “travelled widely to every corner of the Cape”.
“You bring a lived experience of sitting in a wide variety of settings across both the coastal and western parts of the North,” Rebecca said.
“Your significant experience has taken you through the full gamut of jurisdictions exercised by the Magistrates Court, from criminal to civil and from to domestic violence to the Coroners Court and the Murri Court.
“As a local who completed high school in North Queensland, you have an innate appreciation of the challenges of delivering justice in a rural and regional setting.”
Fellow Magistrate Bowen also has significant experience in the Far North.
“Both Your Honours have an affinity with the community that you will both serve and are ideally suited to the busy life of the regional Magistrate,” Rebecca said.
“It is also particularly a cause for celebration when those who have taken on the appointment have significant experience in acting in the role.
“The Far North district will benefit from your on-the ground practical expertise. You have both worked across the regions and have first-hand knowledge of the issues facing your local communities.
“Magistrate Bowen, you have already demonstrated your deep commitment to justice in Far North Queensland.
“Prior to accepting your role as Acting Magistrate, you spent 16 years as a criminal lawyer with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Cairns office. We hear you chose to remain at ATSILS despite offers from other firms, because of your genuine desire to continue working with your ATSILS clients.
“During this time, your circuit took you across the State to remote communities, providing legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. You have first-hand experience of working in busy courts, in a busy practice and juggling the many pressures of community legal work in remote areas.
“It is a difficult but true statement that First Nations people are overrepresented in Queensland’s criminal justice system. It can only be a positive step towards addressing these overwhelming statistics to appoint a Magistrate with your Honour’s experience and understanding of the complexities of life in community to the bench. “
Rebecca said Her Honour was well respected among her peers and was described as “a workhorse”, “confident in your skills, supportive of other solicitors and showing a high level of care when dealing with clients”.
“I also hear that even with a busy workload, you regularly made time to catch up with colleagues for Thursday lunch over pizza, chicken wings and a glass of wine,” she told the court.
“These were opportunities for you to offer your endless knowledge, support and compassion. Thursday also saw those at the table canvass and finalise submissions and plans, for the benefit of your workplace and wider community.”
Magistrate Bowen was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2004. Her Honour spent more than a decade working in remote Cape York communities, including several where English is a second language.
Magistrate Bowen shouldered a heavy ATSILS workload and regularly assisted and mentored junior lawyers.
Her Honour’s ability to manage busy courts and work well under pressure gained her the ongoing respect of peers. Her Honour has acted as a magistrate when required for the past two years.
Magistrate Luxton was admitted was as a solicitor in 1999 and gained extensive experience in court registries.
His Honour assumed acting magistrate duties in some smaller courts early in his career. Before his permanent appointment, he had sat in 36 centres across Central, North and Far North Queensland, and suburban Brisbane.
His Honour has implemented innovations at several courts, resulting in greater efficiency and access to justice.
Magistrate Luxton was heavily involved in community work in his home town of Charters Towers, including as a volunteer, committee or board member of the local cricket, tennis, rugby union and swimming clubs, and the Blackheath and Thornburgh College.