Queensland Law Society

QLS calls on government to explain delays in judicial appointments

Queensland’s peak solicitor group says on-going and unexplained delays in the appointment of judges and magistrates across the state was causing critical backlogs and pressure on Queensland’s courts and judicial system.

Queensland Law Society President Christine Smyth on Friday (April 21) said Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath’s announcement of the appointment of three new magistrates and a district court judge was welcome, but that more judicial appointments were needed.

Ms Smyth welcomed the appointment of veteran criminal solicitor Mark Howden and Sunshine Coast barrister Andrew Sinclair as magistrates at Southport – the state’s second busiest courts – and Toowoomba-based barrister Robbie Davies at Dalby.

“These appointments have been made in accordance with the judicial protocol process and in consultation with Chief Magistrate Judge Ray Rinaudo who is happy with the appointments," Ms Smyth said.

She also welcomed the appointment of veteran barrister Gregory Lynham at Townsville’s new District Court judge.

Ms Smyth said while the new appointments would greatly assist the beleaguered justice system, further appointments were necessary immediately and called on the state government to deliver.

Ms Smyth suggested the best way to address the issue would be for the government to establish an independent judicial commission as a part of a protocol for judicial appointments in Queensland – saying it would ensure that an independent judiciary was one of the pillars of our democracy and central to the separation of powers.

“The Attorney General Yvette D’Ath has stated that during her term there has been a significant investment in the justice system," Ms Smyth said.

“However, delays in judicial appointments continue to be experienced – and justice delayed is justice denied.

“His Honour Judge John Baulch retired from the District Court in Townsville in February and the government was on notice of his retirement well before then, yet it has taken two months to replace him.

“The Southport Magistrates Court has been chronically short of magistrates for many years, being forced to rely on a piecemeal process of calling in retired and acting magistrates to fill the void.

“Why has it taken until now to appoint two magistrates to help cope with the massive backlog?"

Ms Smyth’s comments follow Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath’s announcement of the appointments of three magistrates – two to Southport and one to Dalby – and a judge to the Townsville District Court.

“The only way to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice is to ensure all processes surrounding the judicial system be open, transparent and independent,’’ Ms Smyth said.

“Queensland is fortunate to have an excellent judiciary who dispense justice daily and do so with distinction. The implementation of a judicial commission in Queensland would ensure they get the respect they deserve. It could play an independent role in appointments, deal with the possibility of judicial misconduct and assist in ongoing education of our fine judicial officers.

Ms Smyth said the delays showed that the “experiment” of the judicial appointments committee, while laudable had not resolved these and other issues around judicial appointments.

“It is time the government strongly considers the implementation of an independent judicial commission,” she said.

“A properly funded court system is essential social infrastructure to ensure justice is delivered for all Queenslanders who have recourse to the courts.

“Justice must be delivered in a timely and efficient manner for all who appear including victims of crime and domestic violence.”

Ms Smyth said QLS would continue to work with the State Government to find the best practice for appointing and maintaining our system of justice in Queensland.

ENDS

For further information, please contact Tony Keim on 07 3842 5835, mobile 0488 433 884 or via email, t.keim@qls.com.au.