Page 3820 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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In cases where an application is filed, the magistrate has a discretion whether or not to waive committal proceedings. Where an application is made by an accused who is representing themselves, the accused is safeguarded by the magistrate’s discretion to refuse the application. This proposal has been put forward by the legal profession, and is supported by the Chief Magistrate and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The amendment is modelled on the committal waiver provision in the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 of New South Wales.

In addition, the bill introduces a number of other changes that will make technical or minor amendments to clarify and improve the operation of court, tribunal and appointment processes in the ACT.

The bill proposes to insert a high level aspirational provision in the Court Procedures Act 2004 to provide that the purpose of the civil proceedings provisions is to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law, and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible. An equivalent provision exists in the court procedures rules already, but elevating it to the act will have practical benefits that will improve access to justice for the community. It is intended to increase the likelihood that all matters will be heard more promptly and to promote that disputes should be resolved at a cost that is proportionate to the importance and complexity of the matters in dispute. I thank the Joint Rules Advisory Committee for proposing this amendment.

The bill will amend the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008 to remove any legislative impediment to the efficient sharing of courtroom facilities between the ACAT and the Magistrates Court where this is agreed by the General President and the Chief Magistrate. This amendment was proposed by the Bar Association and I thank them for this suggestion.

Another amendment will defer the commencement of the new statutory framework for the handling of complaints against judicial officers in the ACT. The amendments made to the Judicial Commissions Act 1994 to create this new framework will now commence on 1 February 2017 or by earlier written ministerial notice. This will provide further time to ensure the appropriate structure and resources can be put in place to support the new complaints mechanism. Until it commences, the existing system for complaints will continue to operate.

The bill will also simplify the reappointment process of Law Society, Bar Association and ACT Council of Social Service nominees to the legal aid board. It will make minor consequential amendments to legislation to remove redundant references and reflect name changes made by changes to Northern Territory legislation. It will clarify that the Freedom of Information Act 1989 only applies to a court in relation to matters of an administrative nature, and it will amend the provision in the Court Procedures Act relating to the recovery of court or tribunal fees from an unsuccessful party in civil proceedings to provide that the unsuccessful party must pay the exempted fee “if required to do so by the court or ACAT”. This provides the court and tribunal with a discretion to decide if it is worth pursuing the fee in a particular case.

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