Bill to Establish New Court Division Introduced to Tasmanian Parliament

Thursday 15 August 2019 @ 2.42 p.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

On 31 July 2019, the Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division) Bill 2019 (Tas) (the “Bill”) was introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly (the “Assembly”) by Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Elise Archer, with the Bill currently before the Assembly.


In May 2019 the Bill underwent a consultation process, with Tasmania’s Department of Justice receiving numerous submissions. The Bill proposes to repeal some 18 pieces of Tasmanian legislation, with the objective being to establish the Magistrates Court (Criminal and General Division).

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum (the “EM”) indicates the aim is to provide for the administration of justice in that Division [Criminal and General] in such a manner as to:

  • provide for enhanced access to justice;
  • facilitate the timely dispensing of justice according to law;
  • ensure that all proceedings are conducted fairly; and
  • facilitate and improve the case management of proceedings.

Other jurisdictions of the Magistrates Court have been created as Divisions of that Court, for example the Administrative Appeals Division, the Children’s Division, the Civil Division and the Coronial Division.

Each of these divisions was created by a new Act and operated in accordance with a purpose-specific set of rules, with the criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court being the only jurisdiction remaining to be updated.

Overview of the Proposed Changes

As outlined in the EM, the Bill also proposes to provide a “legislative foundation for a number of changes to procedures and the law”. Some examples proposed are:

  • replacement of references to “justices” with specific references to the Court as constituted by a “Magistrate”, a “bench justice” or an “authorised justice”;
  • the commencement of proceedings by either a “court attendance notice” or a “charge sheet”;
  • an express provision for a witness or party to attend court by audio or video link; and
  • a prohibition on the publication of information relating to preliminary proceedings, unless the Court permits this to occur.

In her speech, the Minister said:

“… Work has been underway for many years to draft a suite of legislation to replace and update the Justices Act 1959. This Bill is the culmination of over 18 years of work, and establishes the ‘high level’ framework for the criminal and general jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court … [The Bill] will provide the legislative framework to support a modern Court system and set the foundation for the Justice Connect project to be designed, built and delivered …”

The Minister also indicated the recent Tasmanian State Budget has invested $24.5 million over four years (from 2019-2020) to develop Justice Connect, an end-to-end Justice and Corrections technology solution that will provide a better Tasmanian justice system. The Minister commented further:

“This Bill will ensure the Justice Connect technological reforms can successfully proceed and the Magistrates Court can transition away from the outdated and inefficient paper-based procedures currently contained in the Justices Act 1959.”

What is Justice Connect?

As outlined in Treasury’s 2019-20 Budget Paper, Justice Connect is an “initiative driven primarily by the need to address the shortcomings of existing legacy technology in key justice business systems that are impeding the Department’s ability to effectively deliver Court and corrective services to the Tasmanian community.”

The Budget Paper also indicates:

“[It is proposed] the IT solution will enhance efficiencies and improve policy outcomes through better information sharing, access to timely and trusted information and integration across government with relevant critical ICT systems (e.g. systems within the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management).”

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