Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 10 February 2015) . . Page.. 103 ..
the council’s reporting requirements are met. In addition to administrative services, the council’s support staff will provide an early filtering function to ensure that only appropriate and relevant complaints reach the council.
While the process to establish a judicial commission to deal with serious complaints that may lead to the removal of a judge or magistrate from office remains unchanged, the proposed scheme provides an authoritative course of action for less serious complaints. The new council will operate in conjunction with the process set out in the self-government act and can supplement the existing process by using the investigation of and reporting on a complaint by an expert body to form the basis for establishing a judicial commission.
The proposed provisions provide that all complaints will first be considered by the new council. For complaints that it believes could, if proven, warrant removal from office, the council must report to the attorney. If the executive receives a recommendation from the council to appoint a judicial commission to examine and report on the complaint, it must do so. A judicial commission would then have the same powers and operate as it does currently under the Judicial Commissions Act.
For proceedings of the council in relation to a complaint by or about one of its members, that person is not able to exercise their functions as a member of the council in relation to the complaint. Proceedings of the council will be carried out in confidence. This is consistent with the New South Wales model and essential to support the council’s ability to consider all available information and decide on each complaint. In addition to the council’s powers to receive and consider complaints, the new complaints framework is supplemented with powers for the council to refer officers for examination if there is an issue of suspected impairment.
If, in the course of examining a complaint, the council or a commission forms the opinion on reasonable grounds that the judicial officer concerned may be physically or mentally unfit to efficiently exercise the functions of his or her office, the council may request the judicial officer to undergo a specified medical examination to assist with its determinations.
A judicial officer is defined as a justice of the Supreme Court or a magistrate. ACAT presidential members are not subject to complaints handling through this mechanism. While ACAT presidential members are independent and appointed to seven-year minimum terms subject only to the removal procedure in the Judicial Commissions Act, they occupy a different role to the ACT’s judges and magistrates, who have life tenure. The bill includes a mechanism to provide oversight of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal by requiring the Attorney-General to approve a protocol for dealing with complaints against ACAT presidential members.
The proposed judicial complaints scheme fosters community confidence by establishing a formal accountability mechanism and a dedicated point of contact for complaints against judicial officers while ensuring the rights of judges and magistrates to a fair hearing.
I thank members for their support of this bill and I commend it to the Assembly.