The Magistrates’ Court is proud of the work of our judicial registrars who are a group of legally qualified professionals with diverse and deep experience across courts and the justice system. They have been a feature of the judicial landscape in both our criminal and civil jurisdictions since 2006.
The independence and protection of judicial registrars is set out in sections 16J(2) and (3) of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (the Act), which reflect provisions relevant to other judicial officers.
Powers delegated to judicial registrars are set out in Schedule 1 of the Magistrates’ Court (Judicial Registrars) Rules 2015. All previously delegated proceedings pursuant to the Road Safety Act 1986, including the delegation to hear first offence drive while disqualified matters, were re-delegated under Schedule 1 of the current Rules.
The amended Rules delegated to judicial registrars additional proceedings including driving while disqualified where the accused has previously been found guilty of that offence. The range of factual circumstances and antecedents of an accused vary significantly and, historically, many such offences have been dealt with by way of fine and licence orders. Both the factual matrix and antecedents are matters known to the parties before a matter commences and facilitate the making of submissions relevant to whether it is inappropriate for a judicial registrar to hear and determine the matter.
Not all such offences are listed before judicial registrars and delegated offences including drive while disqualified continue to be listed before magistrates at first instance. There is no exclusive judicial registrar jurisdiction.
It is important to remember that judicial registrars are part of a system that has inbuilt safeguards.
The first safeguard is the ability for parties, including the prosecution, to make submissions, pursuant to section 16J of the Act, relevant to transfer to a magistrate where a party is of the view that it would be inappropriate for a judicial registrar to hear and determine a matter for any reason. Where a matter is transferred, MCV has arrangements to enable this to occur the same day to ensure there are not additional costs incurred by the parties.
The second safeguard lies in section 16J(1), which prohibits a judicial registrar from “hearing or continuing to hear” a proceeding that a judicial registrar considers for any reason inappropriate to hear and requires a judicial registrar to make arrangements for the proceeding to be heard by a magistrate. Thus, regardless of whether the parties make submissions, a judicial registrar must consider, on an ongoing basis, whether it is inappropriate to hear or continue to hear a matter and is required to transfer the matter at any stage of proceedings should they form that view, which includes circumstances where a disposition outside the powers of a judicial registrar is within range. This a discretion that judicial registrars have exercised since commencement.
The third safeguard lies in section 16K, which provides for appeal or review on application of a party to the proceeding or of the court’s own motion. Where the prosecution forms the view that the sentence imposed by a judicial registrar is outside the appropriate range, they can appeal the decision and the matter is determined by a magistrate.
In addition, any sentence imposed by a judicial registrar can be reviewed by a magistrate of the court’s own motion.