Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 3824..
Court Legislation Amendment Bill 2006
Mr Corbell, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.
Title read by Clerk.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Planning) (10.36): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
Today I am presenting the Court Legislation Amendment Bill 2006. The bill makes a number of important changes to the legislation governing the courts. The amendments relate to contempt of court, the functions of officers in the Magistrates Court and the Ngambra Circle Sentencing Court. The amendments relating to contempt of court and the functions of officers are the result of issues raised during the development of the Court Procedures Rules 2006—the court rules.
The court rules were developed under the Court Procedures Act 2004. This act provides for the rules of the Small Claims Court, Magistrates Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, dealing with the conduct and preparation of litigation, to be simplified and, where possible, uniform across all of the courts. The rules are made by the rule-making committee, which consists of members of the judiciary. The rules are subordinate laws and can be disallowed by this Assembly.
The court rules commenced in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on 1 July 2006 and will commence in the Magistrates Court and Small Claims Court on 1 January 2007. The rules are of value to civil practitioners who presently work with different sets of precedents and practices in the different courts. The rules should reduce the incidence of errors resulting from misapplication of process, or time frame rules in the wrong jurisdiction. The rules will also lead to procedural uniformity in most of the work of the different court registries.
During the drafting of the court rules, clarification was sought as to whether the Magistrates Court has a contempt power, which extends to taking action for contempt to enforce its own orders. Contempt of court occurs when conduct interferes with the administration of justice or perverts the course of justice. This can occur when a person insults a judicial officer or an officer of the court, interrupts proceedings or obstructs or assaults someone in the court.
The Magistrates Court Act 1930 clearly states that the court has power in relation to contempt in the face of the court. However, the act is somewhat unclear with respect to other forms of contempt, such as non-compliance with court orders. This bill clarifies the position to put beyond doubt the powers of the Magistrates Court.
In particular, the bill clarifies what is meant by "contempt in the face of the court". It provides that the Magistrates Court has the power to take action for contempt for