Thursday, 18 February 2010

Judicial Registrars

Last year Elucubrator posted on the expansion of the powers of judicial registrars.

The full list of matters that they may deal with are contained at rule 4 of the Magistrates' Court (Judicial Registrars) Rules 2005.

The problem with that rule is that it contains a long list of section numbers, and references to many different Acts without shedding much light on what they refer to. I've made up my own list below, and I find it useful to refer to when I need a reminder of the powers JRs may exercise.

A judicial registrar may deal with, exercising any and all powers of the Court, in the following proceedings:

(a) in a civil proceeding, all orders including final orders with the consent of the parties (but not family violence and family law matters, however the Rules are silent on matters involving the Stalking Intervention Orders Act 2008);

(ab) an order to bring a prisoner before a Court under r 19(1) of the Corrections Regulations 1998;

(ac) proceedings under ss 5, 5 and 7 of the Instruments Act 1958, including the ability to set aside judgments but not to re-hear proceedings;

(ad) the ability to summons parties to and conduct oral examinations, and the ability to make, vary or discharge instalment orders under the Judgment Debt Recovery Act 1984;

(b) the inspection of property and making of orders resulting from the execution of a general search warrant under s 78 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1989 (though not the power to issue such a warrant);

(c) small claims arbitration under the Magistrates' Court Act 1989 if the amount sought is under $5000;

(ca) the power to issue, recall and endorse warrants (except search warrants) under Part 4 Division 3 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1989.

(cb) to grant a s 110 re-hearing in a civil proceedings and s 94 in criminal proceedings (but not to hear these re-hearings), and to grant adjournments in any matter as considered appropriate;

(d) a pre-hearing conference for a civil proceeding under s 107 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1989;

(e)(i) proceedings for infringement or lodgeable infringement offences, but not drink-driving offences and others under s 49 of the Road Safety Act 1986;

(e)(ii) proceedings under the Infringements Act 2006, but not specific offences under that Act which typically involve non-compliance by the person with requirements of that Act;

(f) proceedings under the Magistrates' Court Civil Procedure Rules 1999, except interpleders over $5000, the power to approve an offer of compromise by a minor or disabled party, the power to grant an injunction or to make preliminary orders in regard to property except the power to require production of the property for inspection.

(fa) to receive applications and renewals for licenses under the Private Agents Act 1966;

(g) applications for shortening of time, licence restoration, interlock removal, etc. under s 50(4) of the Road Safety Act 1986;

and added last year and amended as of 2 February 2010 (notice given in Government Gazette S 42 Tuesday 2 February 2010),

(3) all powers of the Court in relation to diversion under s 59 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.


Anonymous said...

Can JR's do IOTS contests?

Dr Manhattan said...

You ask a very simple question with a very complex answer, Anon.

The person best placed to answer it is probably somebody who has contact with judicial registrars on a regular basis. That's not me, so what I'm about to say is based upon what I've read and not what I've seen.

Applying my reckoner, the applicable sub-rule is (e), either at (e)(i) or (e)(ii). This allows JRs to hear and determine cases which are either infringement or lodgeable offences exactly as though they were a magistrate.

There can be lodgeable offences which are indictable. Section 40A of the Infringements Act 2006 clearly anticipates this. The only one I'm aware of is shoptheft where the amount involved is under $600 under s 74A of the Crimes Act 1958, but there may be others.

It would be nice if the power to hear contests was divided neatly into summary/indicatable or traffic/criminal, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to work that way.

So to answer your question: yes, they can, but only in rare and specific instances.

Kyle said...

Judicial Registrars are a strange creation.

Best I can remember, the idea was they could free up the Court's time by hearing minor contested matters.

In reality, they can only hear a very narrow range of criminal charges. And they're criminal in the sense they're not civil matters — but most folks consider traffic infringements in a different class to criminal offences elsewhere.

There's also a bit of a sting in the tail for a prosecuting agency that has a charge heard before a Judicial Registrar. Magistrates' Court Act 1989 s 16K provides for what is, effectively, an appeal to a Magistrate from a Judicial Registrar's decision.

It's not an absolute right, but does tend to undermine the authority of JR's.

Which is a shame really, because it undermines the purpose of reducing court workload, and most JR's I've met (and also those I've heard about) and pretty good at what they do, and well regarded.

Anonymous said...

Can jr hear a contested criminal speeding charge?

Dr Manhattan said...

If we look at the relevant Rules, it looks like sub-rule 4(1)(e)(i) might have the answer.

(If the contested criminal speeding charge you are talking about is an infringement offence, that is).