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QLS supports repeal of Justices Act

Queensland Law Society President Rebecca Fogerty welcomes the recommendation to repeal and replace the Justices Act 1886 with modernised criminal procedures following the release of the Criminal Procedure Review – Magistrates Court report. 

The report, by retired District Court Judge Michael Shanahan AM, is now publicly available after being handed to the Attorney-General in May last year.

It examined the main criminal procedure laws that apply in Queensland’s Magistrates Courts, and makes recommendations for a new contemporary and effective legislative framework to ultimately replace the Justices Act 1886.

The report also recommends the centralisation of the current Magistrates Courts into a single Magistrates Court of Queensland, and that magistrates and the Magistrates Courts are retitled as Local Court judges and the Local Court of Queensland respectively.

The Society’s President said a contemporary and effective legislative framework was required to “ensure Queensland’s criminal procedure laws are logical, clear, sequential, accessible, and align with social needs, expectations and values”.

“QLS supports the recommendation to retitle the Magistrates Court as the Local Court, with magistrates to be retitled as Local Court Judges,” Rebecca said.

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“QLS is pleased that the recommended guiding principles for the new criminal procedure legislation includes a specific call for the court and its procedures to recognise the distinct cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all stages of criminal proceedings.

“It is also pleasing to see a focus in the proposed guiding principles on the promotion of human rights and treating all court users with respect and dignity.”

The report also recognises the overdue need for significant investment in court technology and electronic processes.

“In our submission to the review, QLS was strongly supportive of the increased use of technology and electronic court processes where possible and appropriate, but having regard to the access to justice barriers technology can present for some people,” she said.

“However, we also recommended particular care needed to be taken in the use of technology for criminal procedures involving children and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The report also addresses court-ordered referrals to Adult Restorative Justice Conferencing.

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“QLS welcomes the report’s recommendation that the new legislation should provide a framework for a structured approach to the Adult Restorative Justice Conferencing and the Summary Offences Diversion Program,” Rebecca said.

“QLS supported the inclusion of ‘in-court’ diversion in the new legislation about criminal procedure in the Magistrates Courts.  Diversionary programs and options are well known to enable rehabilitation which in turn reduces recidivism and increases efficiencies in the criminal justice system.

“We also support the recommendation to enable a Magistrate to exercise a discretion in deciding which matters are appropriate for court-ordered diversion.”

Rebecca said QLS acknowledged and welcomed the inclusion of drafting instructions for the new legislation. 

“The Society looks forward to consultation on an exposure draft of the legislation when it is available.”

The Queensland Government is now considering the detailed recommendations and “the further steps that would be required to advance the much-anticipated criminal procedure legislative reforms”.

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“Any progress will be made in close consultation with key stakeholders and with reference to the Queensland Government’s future budget processes.”

The Review Report is in two volumes. Volume one explains the review, its approach and sets out the recommendations. Volume two has a complete list of the recommendations and contains proposed drafting instructions at Appendix C.

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