Page 99 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 10 February 2015

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executive to appoint a judicial commission to investigate the complaint but only if the Attorney-General believes that the complaint could, if substantiated, warrant the removal of a judicial officer from office.

One of the problems with this system is that it does not allow a formal system for dealing with complaints that would not warrant removal of the judicial officer from office, only for the most serious breaches. Minor complaints are dealt with via the ACT law courts and tribunal complaints and feedback policy, which basically requires ordinary complaints to be made to the head of the court, who then determines how to approach the matter. The current process also leaves the difficult decision of deciding whether or not to appoint a judicial commission in the hands of the Attorney-General.

The scheme established by this bill addresses these issues. It establishes a part-time judicial council for the ACT constituted by the Chief Justice, the Chief Magistrate and two members to be appointed by the executive. The council will be able to receive and investigate complaints. It can recommend that a judicial commission be established to examine the complaint, which could ultimately lead to a recommendation to the Assembly to dismiss the judicial officer based on the complaint.

For less serious complaints which are substantiated, the council will refer the complaint to the relevant head of jurisdiction; that is, the head of the relevant court. For example, the head of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is the Chief Justice. As in New South Wales, the head of the jurisdiction has no explicit disciplinary powers under the act but would be expected to counsel the magistrate or judge who is the subject of the complaint about their behaviour. Unlike the current system, it allows the judicial council to investigate the complaint rather than leave it to the head of each particular jurisdiction. A report of the complaint is also provided by the council to the Attorney-General.

Moving from the existing informal complaints system to a more formal and centralised structure, in my view, also has the advantage of creating a system where complaints are dealt with in a way that is clearly transparent and accountable—certainly it will help to remove any perception that current complaints are not dealt with in such a way. I also hope that the removal of complaints from the individual courts themselves to the centralised judicial council will have administrative and resource benefits for the courts and potentially a positive flow-on effect in terms of their efficiency.

I also noted that, in a recent report by the Western Australian Law Reform Commission on judicial complaints, the ACT was not able to provide any statistics on the level of complaints against judicial officers. It seems to me that this new formal complaints structure will help to address this. I am aware that significant consultation was undertaken with the legal community in relation to the judicial council scheme proposed in this bill and that they are supportive of establishing the new complaints process and agreeable to the scheme that is proposed.

Members may be aware that our neighbour, New South Wales, has a judicial commission which has been operating since 1986. One part of the commission is a

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