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Magistrates Court

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									Magistrates Court

       To be seen by the ACT Community and acknowledged by clients as providing a high
       quality service that is professional, efficient, empathetic, fair, informative and effective

Organisational Environment
       The ACT Magistrates Court provides the ACT community with an impartial forum for resolving conflict and
       determining and enforcing legal rights under the Magistrates Court Act 1930 and the Magistrates Court (Civil
       Jurisdiction) Act 1982 in respect of:

       • adjudicating in civil debt and damages disputes up to $10,000 as the Small Claims Court and $50,000 in
         the Magistrates Court;

       • determining breaches of the criminal law;

       • handling juvenile offences and matters relating to care and welfare of children as the Children’s Court;

       • hearing Family Law applications;

       • deciding nuisance actions;

       • granting protection and restraining orders in appropriate cases;

       • issuing licences to auctioneers, second hand dealers, collectors and pawnbrokers;

       • conducting inquiries into the cause and manner of certain deaths and fires as the Coroners Court; and

       • holding administrative responsibility for a range of Tribunal functions, including:

          –   Credit Tribunal;

          –   Mental Health Tribunal;

          –   Guardianship and Management of Property Tribunal;

          –   Tenancy Tribunal;

          –   ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT);

          –   ACT Discrimination Tribunal; and

          –   Residential Tenancy Tribunal.

Key Achievements

       The ACT Magistrates Court once again participated in a national courts benchmarking exercise conducted by
       the Productivity Commission. Whilst it appeared on the surface that the Court did not perform well in
       comparison with other Magistrates Courts and as a result attracted unfavourable press coverage, the Court did
       in fact have a more than favourable outcome on both a cost and timeliness basis when dealing with more
       serious matters in both its Civil and Criminal jurisdictions.

                                                                                                 Year in Review 39
Emergency Protection Order
          Legislation was introduced in December 1998 whereby police officers can obtain emergency protection orders
          out of normal office hours on behalf of victims of domestic violence in appropriate cases where the arrest of the
          perpetrator was not an option. This is a welcome addition to the services already offered and guarantees
          24-hour access to protection orders.

Staff Training
          All staff were trained in the area of Cultural Diversity which included the following topics:

          • Indigenous peoples;

          • harassment and discrimination;

          • gender and other relevant variables; and

          • skills for interviewers and candidates.

          The Court also built on its extensive customer service training from the previous year. Refresher and ‘train-
          the-trainer’ courses were provided for existing staff and initial customer service training for new staff – especially
          those in client contact areas.

          Staff of ACT Magistrates with Phil Thompson, Registrar (front)

Information Technology
          The trialling of video conferencing equipment between the Belconnen Remand Centre and the Court in the
          previous financial year proved successful. Equipment for one Court and the Belconnen Remand Centre has
          now been permanently installed and is expected to be used extensively.

Payment Options
          To provide a better range of options for payment of fines, fees and debts, EFTPOS terminals were installed at
          the public counters of the Court. In addition, a direct debit facility was introduced whereby clients can elect to
          pay a debt by regular instalments directly from a nominated bank account.

     40   ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety Annual Report 1998-99
Coordinated Criminal Listing Committee
        Mr Gary Byron, a consultant with extensive experience in Court administration, reviewed the Criminal Listing
        process. As a result, a Coordinated Criminal Listing Committee has been established. It is chaired by Magistrate
        Michael Somes and includes representatives from the Law Society and the Bar Association. It is charged with
        implementing the recommendations and establishing a new criminal listing system.

Residential Tenancy Tribunal
        The Residential Tenancy Tribunal completed its first year of operation and two additional members were
        recently appointed. The Tribunal has attracted substantial positive feedback and provides a timely and
        inexpensive forum for landlord and tenant disputes.

AAT President
        Professor Lindsay Curtis, the long-standing and highly respected President of the Administrative Appeals
        Tribunal retired in November 1998. He was replaced by Michael Peedom PSM, the former ACT Government
        Solicitor. For the time being he is being ably assisted by Mr Tom Sherman in addition to existing members.

Fine Enforcement
        A new fine enforcement regime commenced operations on 1 January 1999 making imprisonment no longer
        the first enforcement option. Heavy reliance is now placed on Civil debt recovery procedures which are used in
        conjunction with driver’s licence suspension along with cancellation of motor vehicle registration in appropriate

        Electronic interface with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has seen a more efficient processing of the
        fine enforcement scheme. The debt recovery work is handled by the Criminal section of the Magistrates Court
        using bailiff services for executing of civil procedures and selling goods seized under writs of execution.

Complaints Handling Mechanism
        Revised procedures for handling complaints have been developed and implemented during the year. This
        included installing toll free phone and fax lines. In addition, feedback is actively sought from Court users by
        provision of easily accessible suggestion forms and deposit boxes located in public areas within the Magistrates
        Court and Children’s Court.

Future Directions

Protection Order Unit
        A working party charged with amalgamating the civil domestic violence and restraining order units into one
        section, to be called the Protection Order Unit, has been established. Work has already been completed
        standardising computer programming, filing systems and developing common procedures.

Centralised Listing Unit
        In addition to reviewing and revamping the Criminal Listing system, detailed above, work was commenced
        centralising listing responsibilities in relation to all jurisdictions of the Court and all Tribunals under the
        direction of the Listing Coordinator. This should lead to significant improvement in overall efficiencies and
        allow a better use of resources.

                                                                                                      Year in Review 41
     Total number of cases in the ACT Magistrates Court

                                                        1996–97             1997–98    1998–99

     Claims                                               3,351               4,897*    6,019**
     Small Claims                                         4,953               2,086
     Workers Compensation                                   521                 462        447
     Australian Register of Judgments                       600                 488        510
     Applications                                           552                 566        132
     Domestic Violence                                    1,045               1,015      1,685
     Restraining Orders                                     981                 884      1,006
     Licensing Applications                                 339                 289        278
     Criminal Injuries                                      148                 193        282
     Foreign Service                                         56                  50         54
     Mutual Recognition                                      14                   7          4
     Interstate Registration                                 19                  20         20
     Sub-total Civil                                     12,579              10,957     10,437
     Charge                                               7,776             10,946#    12,176#
     VATAC                                                1,734               1,983      1,375
     Misc. Licence Applications                             774                 872        701
     Sub-total Criminal-adult                            10,284              13,801     14,252
     Children’s Court
     Charge                                               1,988              2,290#      2,958
     VATAC                                                 N/A                  N/A        N/A
     Enforcement                                            183                 135
     Care Matters                                           411                 356        304
     Family Law                                             113                  73         52
     Sub-total Children’s Court                           2,695               2,854      3,314
     TOTAL                                               25,558              27,612     28,003

             * Includes 1998 small claims matters
             # Combined summons and charge
             ** Includes 1998–99 small claims matters

42   ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety Annual Report 1998-99
Magistrates court criminal listings per year

List          1996–97        1997–98           1998–99    List Description

A               34,945         38,260            32,154   General List
B                7,917          6,758             8,006   Children’s
BH                                                  58    Children’s Court Hearings
CS                                                   3    Criminal Subpoena
D                5,782          8,182             9,424   Criminal Defended
E                 640             658              638    Traffic Defended
FV                                                 138    Family Violence
P                                                  139    Parking List
PH              16,136         16,278            22,358   Part Heard Adult
PK               2,088          2,479             3,321   Part Heard Child
PP                251            N/A              2,459   Traffic/Comp/Electoral
RL                280            N/A                      Licence Restoration
SI               4,546          5,357             5,759   Status Inquiry
SK                N/A            N/A              1,358   Status Inquiry (Children’s Court)
TOTAL           72,585         77,972            85,815

                                                                                      Year in Review 43
         Magistrates Court civil listings per year

         List               1996–97         1997–98            1998–99         List Description

         C                       241              195               164        Civil Hearings
         CE                    1,084              812               925        Care Matters
         CD                       46               45                  4       Car Damage Assessments
         CI                      123              156               298        Criminal Injuries
         CM                    1,897            1,870              1,311       Civil Motions
         DC                    1,327            1,415              1,432       Domestic Violence Conference
         DI                      618              622               587        Domestic Violence Interim
         DO                                                            6       Domestic Violence Callover
         DV                      141              173               206        Domestic Violence Hearings
         FL                                                         130        Family Law
         OE                                                         322        Oral Examinations
         PC                      171              217               135        Part Heard Civil
         PM                                                         950        Small Claims Conferences
         PO                                                         938        Small Claims Motions
         PR                                                           77       Small Claims Referee
         PS                                                         770        Small Claims Hearings
         PT                                                            8       Pre-trial Conferences*
         PU                                                           33       Protection Order Hearings
         RC                                                        1,874       Restraining Order Conferences
         RI                                                            2       Restraining Order Interim Order List
         RS                      963            1,416              1,467       Return of Subpoenas
         SF                       95               38                 56       Special Fixtures
         SO                      629              790               672        Scheduling Order
         TX                       36               31                 35       Taxation
         WC                      238              227               216        Workers Compensation Hearings
         WO                      456              617               447        Workers Compensation Callover
         TOTAL                 8,065            8,624            13,065

              *   Included in SO list

Contact Officer
         For inquiries in relation to this section of the report, please contact:

         Ms Jane Caruana
         Phone: (02) 6217 4216 or

    44   ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety Annual Report 1998-99

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