JPs silenced in SW court

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Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
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Attorney-General John Quigley

The growing volume and legal complexity of criminal cases in WA has led to the demise of justices of the peace in court rooms across the State.

As of today magistrates will take over hearing all remaining court matters from justices of the peace in Bunbury.

Yesterday, Bunbury JPs Dale Hill-Power and Trevor Slater sat in the Bunbury Magistrates Court for the last time.

They dealt with 43 matters, 20 of those relating to no authority to drive offences, nine relating to driving with prescribed illicit drug in oral fluid or blood, and four relating to exceeding 0.08g of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Bunbury JP Christopher Mills said the announcement closed a long chapter of JPs hearing criminal matters in WA.

“I’ve been a JP since 1988 and have sat in court since that time so it’s a sad day because it removes some of the community feel out of the court,” Mr Mills said.

“It is a requirement that people who are charged are brought to court in the shortest possible time to have their matters dealt with and in the past that has been able to be done by JPs in regional areas. So I think this change will create some interesting problems in the regions.”

Justices of the peace are volunteers and Bunbury JP Peter Nowland believes they play a big part in assisting magistrates.

“It is a very, very sad indictment on the commission, I know the systems have changed, but I believe we pay a large part in assisting magistrates, particularly during holiday periods,” Mr Nowland said.

“We are a voluntary organisation, it’s purely a public commitment and service to the community and it will ultimately put pressure on the courts which I understand are very overworked.”

Attorney-General John Quigley said a combination of videolink technology and the appointment of two new magistrates would allow the change to be made.

“It is now fitting and appropriate that all matters coming before the WA courts are heard by a magistrate, who thanks to technology can be present in any court across the State,” Mr Quigley said.

“Many JPs have volunteered their time to assist the judicial system and I extend my appreciation to them for their significant contribution.”

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