Magistrates Court Annual Report 2014 - 2015, table of contents and letter to Attorney-General (docx, 55.9 KB)
Annual Report 2014 - 2015
The aim of the Magistrates Court is for a fair, just and safe Tasmania. We serve the community by providing access to an accountable, independent and impartial system of justice administered according to law.
The purpose of the Magistrates Court of Tasmania is to provide an open, transparent and accessible system of justice, to apply the Rule of Law, and to protect and respect individuals’ rights.
- We value judicial independence and we act independently from Government in the exercise of our judicial functions.
- Our staff behave with integrity and respect, are accountable, cooperative, act without bias and in accordance with the State Service Code of Conduct.
For more detailed information relating to the Court’s strategic plan and its day-to-day operations (services, locations, decisions, court lists) readers should access the Magistrates Court’s website.
The Magistrates Court of Tasmania is a statutory body created as a Court of record by the Magistrates Court Act 1987 section 3A that comprises the Chief Magistrate, the Deputy Chief Magistrate and the Magistrates.
Magistrates have jurisdiction to hear and determine a broad range of legal matters.
Magistrates sitting in Courts of Petty Sessions hear and determine simple offences, crimes triable summarily under State and Commonwealth legislation, breaches of duty, applications under various State and Commonwealth statutes, and exercise a wide range of appellate and review functions. Magistrates also hear simple and indictable offences in the Youth Justice Division as well as exercising child protection responsibilities.
Magistrates in the Civil Division hear and determine civil matters to a value of $50,000 or an unlimited amount with the consent of the parties. Matters up to a value of $5,000 are dealt with as Minor Civil Claims and undergo simplified procedures prior to, and at hearing.
Statutory provision is also made for the Court to sit in the following Divisions:
- Civil Division
- Coronial Division
- Youth Justice Division
- Children’s Division
- Administrative Appeals Division
- Mining Division
Magistrates also sit as Coroners to conduct Inquests into sudden deaths, fires and explosions.
Magistrates also sit as chairpersons of various statutory tribunals, including the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, the Motor Accidents Compensation Tribunal, and the Mining Tribunal.
The Court acknowledges the constructive working relationship that the Court enjoyed with the Attorney-General of Tasmania, the Honourable Vanessa Goodwin MLC, during the reporting period.
Further, I express my appreciation to the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Mr Simon Overland, for his assistance and support. I extend that same acknowledgment and appreciation to all officers of the central office of the Department of Justice.
In addition, I express my appreciation to the Court volunteers for the support services they provide to litigants, witnesses and others involved in proceedings before the Court. The Tasmanian community is indebted to them for their service which is valuable and selfless.
Magistrate Michael Daly is Deputy Chief Magistrate. I express my appreciation to him for his support throughout the reporting period. I also express my appreciation to all Magistrates, the Administrator of Courts, Wayne Johnson, and all Court staff, for their dedication and professionalism throughout the reporting period and during my time as a Magistrate and Chief Magistrate.
During the reporting year, Magistrates constituted courts of petty sessions under the Justices Act 1959, and sat in the various Divisions of the Magistrates Court at the following locations around the State:
- daily court sittings at Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, and Burnie;
- circuit court sittings at Queenstown, Smithton, Currie, Whitemark, Scottsdale, St Helens, and Huonville.
In July and August of this year long serving Magistrate Don Jones retired. I take this opportunity to thank him for his service to the Court and in particular to the community of the North West Coast.
Another long serving Magistrate, my brother Magistrate Tim Hill, retired in August after in excess of 20 years service in the Devonport and Launceston Courts, and it is with great personal sadness that I acknowledge his passing in March 2015. Tim was a most popular and well regarded Magistrate who gave splendid service to the community over an extended period of time. I express my condolences to his wife Sue, children Rob and Georgina, and grandson Archie.
This year also saw the appointment of two new Magistrates. Magistrate Andrew McKee was appointed to Devonport, and Magistrate Sharon Cure was appointed to Launceston after previously serving as a Magistrate in Victoria. I take this opportunity to formally welcome both to the Tasmanian Magistrates Court.
In recent times the Court has come under intense budgetary pressures and while I acknowledge that the Court cannot be insulated against these, I must say the resources are at the present time in my view inappropriately stretched. Magistrates need an appropriate level of administrative support to properly deliver justice to the Tasmanian community and decisions need to be made with that objective in mind. In my view the quality of justice cannot be measured by a budget bottom line only. I trust that those in the highest levels of government making these decisions may bear these comments in mind.
It was also with a note of sadness that earlier this year I advised Her Excellency, the Governor, that I would be retiring on 21 October 2015. I was appointed as Magistrate Special Commissioner for the Small Claims Court on 16 July 1985, moved to the Criminal Bench on 1 January 1988, and was appointed Chief Magistrate on 3 August 2009. I have been very fortunate to serve the Tasmanian community over that time and have very much enjoyed the roles. I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues, court staff, legal practitioners, prosecutors and others who have appeared before me and have supported me in my role. Whilst Magistrates are a very visible and key part of the judicial process it takes many people performing a range of important roles to ensure that our judicial system operates fairly and in accordance with the rule of law.
During the current reporting period, ending 30 June 2015, the Magistrates Court was constituted by the following Magistrates:
Chief Magistrate M R Hill
Magistrate S F Mollard
Magistrate O M McTaggart
Magistrate C P Webster
Magistrate G A Hay
Deputy Chief Magistrate M F Daly
Magistrate C J Rheinberger
Magistrate S J Cooper
Magistrate T J Hill (retired)
Magistrate R J Marron
Magistrate S J Brown
Magistrate S E Cure
Magistrate M B Bartlett
Magistrate M J Brett
Magistrate A R McKee
Magistrate D J Jones (retired)
Magistrate S R Carey
Magistrate R E Chandler
At the end of the reporting period (30 June 2015), the Magistrates Court had an establishment (excluding Magistrates) of 58.7 full time equivalent staff distributed across the four permanent court registries in the State (Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie). As at 30 June 2014 actual establishment numbers were at 54.26 full time equivalent staff.
The Court once again expresses its gratitude for the voluntary contributions of the Bench Justices who deliver justice to the community by adjudicating in certain traffic plea courts, preliminary proceedings on indictable offences, and after-hours courts dealing with urgent applications for bail and family violence orders. The Bench Justices’ contribution to the criminal justice system in this State is commendable and invaluable.
The Court continues its involvement in national and international forums for the discussion of justice and court administration in a variety of jurisdictions exercised by the Court. During the reporting year the Court was represented at the following meetings and conferences:
- Judicial Council of Australia Colloquium, 10-12 October 2014
- Council of Chief Magistrates Meeting, 22 October 2014
- National Judicial Council of Australia Leadership Program, 23-25 October 2014
- Asia Pacific Coroners Society Annual Conference, 11-14 November 2014
- National Judicial College Council Meetings, 7 February and 23 May 2015
- Cultural Diversity and the Law Conference, 13-15 March 2015
- Council of Chief Magistrates Meeting, 18-19 March 2015
- Judicial College of Australia Governing Council meeting, 28 November 2014
Tasmanian Magistrates Conference
The Magistrates professional development program continued with a conference held in Hobart on 16-17 October 2014 and a one day conference held in Campbell Town on 24 April 2015.
A range of presentations were delivered by guest presenters and Magistrates. These combined efforts resulted in most interesting programs at both conferences. Topics included housing options in Tasmania, sentencing, new advances in forensic science, the court and forensic disability services, criminal case management, coronial update, youth justice and mental health lists. I express my gratitude to those whose presentations have significantly contributed to the ongoing development of the expertise of the Tasmanian Magistracy.
The Court continues to dispose of its workload in the majority of the traditional areas within acceptable timeframes.
An overview of the Court’s statistical performance during the 2014-15 reporting year shows:
|civil (minor civil, civil, residential tenancy)||4,509|
|restraint order applications||1,223|
|family violence order applications||909|
|child protection applications||659|
|Motor Accidents Compensation Tribunal||24|
Fines, Costs, Fees & Levies imposed
|Criminal court fees||710,504|
|Court fees (civil claims, applications etc.)||648,524|
|Victims of Crime Compensation levies||263,240|
|Appeals Costs Fund levies||28,510|
During the reporting year the Court continued its activities in the areas of problem-solving justice. This approach to justice requires courts to acknowledge that rather than simply processing cases, the court system should be concerned with taking approaches in an attempt to address the problems that lead to a person’s appearance in court, and work to change offender behaviour and improve public safety where appropriate.
Currently the Court takes this approach in the following:
- Court Mandated Drug Diversion (CMD) program;
- Diversion List (DL);
- Family Violence Lists;
- Youth Justice Special List.
The Court continued to work to improve collaboration between participants in these problem-solving justice approaches over the course of 2014-2015, building on what has been achieved in previous years.
Court Mandated Drug Diversion Program
The Court Mandated Drug Diversion Program (CMD) was introduced in 2007 to divert people, whose offending behaviour is linked to illicit drug use, into drug treatment interventions.
The CMD program has capacity for approximately 80 defendants statewide. Referral to the program under a Drug Treatment Order can involve a range of treatment options depending on what is most suitable for an offender’s needs, but may include some or all of the following:
- Individual counselling;
- Group counselling;
- Random illicit drug testing;
- Residential rehabilitation;
- Case management;
- Detoxification (via the State Alcohol and Drug Service).
In the 2011 the Court adjusted the manner in which it dealt with CMD clients by instituting listing practices whereby on average seven Magistrates across the State hear and determine CMD matters. This adjustment has allowed the Court to develop greater expertise in illicit drug cases and improve its internal communication with respect to CMD clients.
The program was found to be largely successful in achieving the following short-term outcomes:
- Relapse prevention or delay
- Offenders addressed criminogenic drug treatment needs
- Services worked together effectively
- Services achieved best practice
- Courts have had more options to respond appropriately to drug using offenders (Evaluation Report, November 2008)
To facilitate the continued success of CMD, the Court has:
- modified its listing arrangements to provide offenders with greater access to program staff and legal representation;
- modified its information management systems to better reflect case processes;
- organised professional development for judicial officers in the area of therapeutic jurisprudence and problem-solving justice;
- provided regular feedback to the Department of Justice on the strengths and weaknesses of the program, including the integration and quality of drug treatment services.
CMD has been successful in diverting a large group of offenders away from prison into community-based treatment and has had some positive impacts on delaying relapse or a return to crime.
Another key offender diversion program operated in the Court is the Diversion List (DL). The pilot program commenced in May 2007 in the Hobart Magistrates Court and has now become a permanent feature of Court operations. During the reporting period the DL list was expanded to the Burnie and Devonport Courts. Presently, the List sits three times a month in Hobart and once a month in Launceston, Burnie and Devonport, and is presided over by specialist Magistrates (who also preside over general lists).
During the reporting period the Hobart Diversion List was further expanded to include persons with acquired brain injuries or cognitive disabilities who commit summary offences.
The DL is a ‘problem solving court’ program that diverts eligible defendants to mental health disability and other welfare services to address the underlying issues of their criminal behaviour. Using provisions within the Bail Act 1994 and the Sentencing Act 1997, the MHDL seeks to provide an alternative to traditional criminal sanctions where the mental illness is causative of the offending behaviour. Persons charged with either a summary offence or a minor indictable offence triable summarily are eligible to enter the List, while persons charged with sexual offences and family violence offences are ineligible.
Family Violence Lists
Upon the commencement of the Family Violence Act 2004, the Court began listing separate court sessions for family violence matters in order to improve its response to these matters and co-ordination with relevant support agencies. These designated family violence court lists are supported by specialist police prosecutors.
The Program was re-launched in April 2011 to incorporate new individual and group-based interventions. The Court looks forward to working with Police Prosecutions and Community Corrections over the course of the coming year.
Contest Mention System
A detailed evaluation of the contest mention system was completed in November 2012.
The evaluation report presented information relating to the effectiveness of the system as a pre-trial hearing for summary offences or indictable offences triable summarily which aims to facilitate early guilty pleas and narrow the issues in dispute. The contest mention mechanism puts in place a process which enables a defendant, if they are going to plead guilty to an offence heard in the Magistrates Court, to do so at the earliest possible stage of the pre-trial proceedings.
The report identified areas where improvement, reform or further evaluation of the scheme would be appropriate.
Among the recommendations contained in the report were:
- Tasmania’s contest mention hearing scheme should continue to operate as a statewide scheme that ensures equality of access to the process for all Tasmanians regardless of where they are located.
- Legislation should be developed – perhaps via the Magistrates Court (Criminal & General Division) Bill - to provide explicit statutory authority for the Magistrates Court in summary cases to conduct contest mention hearings and for Magistrates to indicate the sentence likely to be imposed on a guilty plea entered at the contest mention stage of the proceedings, and for the Chief Magistrate to give any directions and make any rules required for this purpose.
- The Magistrates Court establish a Contest Mention Working Group, chaired by a Magistrate and including other Magistrates, and relevant internal and external stakeholders.
- Legislative provision should be made for costs orders against either defence counsel or prosecution agencies, if they fail without reasonable excuse to comply with procedural obligations.
- A specific data collection strategy should be established with other relevant court-based participants in contest mention hearings, such as Tasmania Police and the Legal Aid Commission, to enable a further evaluation of the “net benefits” of contest mention hearings by the end of 2015.
A copy of the full evaluation report is available on the Magistrates Court website.
In January 2011 the Magistrates Court in Hobart embarked upon a pilot project to trial a new approach to dealing with Youth Justice matters that come before it which has resulted in a Specialised Youth Justice Court Pilot.
In 2013 the Court completed and published an analysis and evaluation of the Specialised Youth Justice Court to assess whether the aims of the project have been achieved. A copy of the evaluation including findings and recommendations is available on the Courts’ website. The Report is an invaluable resource and will be useful in guiding continual improvements to better achieve the original aims of the project.
The Court process involves a single Magistrate hearing all youth justice cases; and the development of a “specialist list” involving a therapeutic, bail-based approach to cases involving abuse of alcohol and drugs, mental health problems, or any other particular problem or combination of problems where the Court might appropriately intervene. Complex matters are transferred into a “specialist list” in order to receive more intensive supervision by the Court and appropriate case management by the relevant agencies.
The purpose of the list is to have one Magistrate dealing with all youth justice matters to allow for consistency of approach and hopefully more time to address issues that are relevant to many young offenders such as alcohol and drug use, homelessness, illiteracy, education problems and many others.
The aims of the pilot were to achieve:
- Improvement of timeliness to finalisation of cases
- Encouragement of more consistency in the Court’s decision
- Development and application of specialist expertise in youth justice matters
- Better coordination of youth justice services to the Court
- Increased collaborative approaches between relevant agencies
The Specialised Youth Justice Court Pilot can be seen as consolidating the problem-solving justice approach in the Court. The Court acknowledges again the assistance of the Tasmanian Police Service in providing dedicated prosecutors, the Director of Legal Aid for providing dedicated legal practitioners, and all those government and non-government bodies who have assisted in building a team approach which should lead to better outcomes for young offenders.
The Court has established a statewide structure of Court User Groups in each of the permanent court locations in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie. The concept of ‘Court User Groups’ had been discussed at previous Tasmanian Magistrates Conferences and had received widespread support from Magistrates in terms of strengthening the Court’s consultative processes with a range of court users, including the legal profession and a range of court support agencies.
The Court User Groups assist with feedback on the operation of the courts and provide useful input which can be included in the Court’s strategic planning processes. Regional and relatively informal consultation processes with key stakeholders are also likely to improve the Court’s service delivery, and the status and reputation of the Court within the broader community.
The establishment of the user groups builds on the Court’s goals of community engagement and continuous improvement.
A wide range of organisations considered major stakeholders of the Court have accepted positions on the Court User Groups, including the:
- Law Society of Tasmania
- Tasmanian Bar Association
- Tasmania Police
- Community Corrections
- Legal Aid Commission
- Victims Support Service
- Disability, Child, Youth and Family Services (DHHS), incorporating Child Protection Services and Youth Justice Services
- Statewide Mental Health Services (DHHS)
- Aboriginal Legal Service
- Community Legal Centres
- Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS)
Court User Group meetings were held across the State again in this reporting period and continue to assist in better service provision to court stakeholders.
An internal Steering Committee has continued to develop drafting instructions for a new suite of legislation governing the procedures applicable to the Court’s criminal and general jurisdiction.
When enacted, the proposed Magistrates Court (Criminal & General Division) legislative package will result in:
- a new Magistrates Court (Criminal & General Division) Act
- a new Magistrates Court (Criminal & General Division) Rules
- a new Magistrates Court (Criminal & General Division) Fees Regulations
- a new Restraint Orders Act
- consequential amendments to the Justices Act 1959, the Magistrates Court Act 1987, the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Act 1932 and other court-related legislation
The Court’s ability to manage the resolution of cases in a timely manner is dependent on the legislative framework governing the Court’s processes. The current framework is provided by the Justices Act 1959. The proposed new legislation will help to expedite the criminal litigation process while protecting fundamental rights to a fair trial.
The proposed Bill includes such things as early prosecution disclosure, earlier entry of pleas, fewer adjournments, facilitating the summoning of police officers as witnesses, shorter preliminary proceedings on serious indictable charges, and straightforward methods of evidence presentation.
The legislative package will propose a number of initiatives, including:
- new case management procedures, standards, and sentence indication powers designed to promote the just and efficient determination of matters
- a new prosecution and defence disclosure framework for disclosure of prosecution evidence and some defences
- a new way of commencing criminal proceedings via a “court attendance notice” instead of a “charge sheet” or Complaint
- new contempt of court powers and increased powers for the Court to control its own process
- increased property value thresholds for matters that may be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court
- a clear and contemporary scale of legal costs
Whilst it has been a long running project I am hopeful that a draft Bill will be available for comment and consultation with stakeholders later this year. When implemented I am confident that it will deliver a more modern and efficient process in the Magistrates Court for those who use the Court’s services.
The Court’s video-conference facilities increase the community’s access to justice for witnesses and defendants in custody to attend court by video link from any location in Tasmania, interstate or overseas. Video-conferencing substantially reduces the cost of adducing evidence from witnesses residing interstate and overseas. The facilities use large screens installed for evidence presentation. All persons present in court are able to see and hear these witnesses. Provision has also been made for vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence remotely from a protected witness room in the court building or elsewhere, and the entire video conference system has been integrated into the Court’s digital audio recording system.
During the reporting year, Magistrates and Court officers were engaged in a range of legal education programs that are aimed at improving the understanding of the justice system for a number of groups, such as young lawyers, prosecutors, probation officers, justices of the peace, legal studies students, and community groups.
Legal Practice Course
Since 1997, the Hobart Magistrates have been delivering lectures, and supervising practical courtroom exercises, for university law graduates who are enrolled in the six month Legal Practice Course. This is conducted between February and August each year.
The sessions are supervised by the Court’s Criminal Law Practice and Advocacy unit. Magistrates convene mock courts for two to three hours every week after court adjourns in the afternoon to introduce law graduates to the courtroom environment in preparation for when they commence legal practice. The graduates prepare and deliver applications, make submissions, deliver pleas in mitigation, and conduct minor contested hearings. The Magistrates provide feedback to the trainees on their delivery, content, and advocacy skills. The exercises form part of the assessment for the unit.
Based on feedback from course participants, the Criminal Law Practice and Advocacy unit is considered to be one of the most practical units studied by the trainees as the Magistrates Court is the jurisdiction in which most junior lawyers are likely to practice in the early years of their professional life.
As part of the Legal Practice Course each year, the Magistrates Court host trainees for a day as part of our CourtWatch program. On a succession of days over a two week period, small groups of trainees are shown the practices and procedures of the Court in both its administrative and judicial functions.
Trainees sit in court with the Court Clerks to observe proceedings, and “shadow” their allocated Magistrate for the day. Trainees are given an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen during the day before the Magistrate in court. They are also given an opportunity to observe how the administrative tasks of the Court are conducted in the registry, including filing, listing and record-keeping duties.
It is hoped that the trainees will gain a better understanding of the legislative and administrative requirements of the Magistrates Court, so they will be better equipped to comply with the challenges of legal practice.
Sentencing Workshops were originally developed in 2002 as a joint initiative of the Magistrates Court, the Supreme Court, Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Police and Emergency Management, the Neighbourhood Watch Association, and the Crime Prevention and Community Safety Council.
Information about the sentencing workshops can be found on the Sentencing Law in Tasmania website.
Over a number of years, Magistrates and officers of the Magistrates Court of Tasmania have conducted numerous sentencing workshops around the State to explain the sentencing process and sentencing principles. Participants in the workshops are then invited to apply the principles to fictitious cases drawn from a sample that occurs on a daily basis in the Magistrates Court.
Workshops have been organised for Adult Education classes, for school groups, for members of Parliament, and for relevant occupational groups such as probation officers and court support workers, and for the public generally during events such as Seniors’ Week.
The workshops have been very well received, and have resulted in a better understanding of the complex task of sentencing, including matters taken into consideration, and the weight to be attached to the wide range of factors relevant to sentencing. The workshops now form a permanent feature of the Court’s strategic plan.
Web-Publication of Magistrates’ Decisions
During the reporting year, decisions from our criminal jurisdiction were published on the Magistrates Court website. Magistrates’ decisions are now available on the internet for access by legal practitioners and other interested persons. The Court now publishes decisions on its website from the following Divisions of the Court:
- Criminal & General Division
- Civil Division
- Coronial Division
- Administrative Appeals Division
- Anti-Discrimination Tribunal
Please refer to the Decisions section on the Magistrates Court website.
In January 2011 the Department of Justice launched the Disability Access and Inclusion Plan Communication Strategy and formed a Disability Working Group with representatives from each Output, including the Magistrates Court. The object is to ensure people with any form of disability are able to fully participate, contribute and achieve their potential, and to exercise self-determination and responsibility as citizens in Tasmania.
The Magistrates Court is participating in the Disability Working Group, and the Programs, Services and Accessibility Working Party to examine and improve not only physical access to court buildings but access via all mediums to programs and services (such as telephone enquiries, website information resources, court forms etc.).
I acknowledge and thank the range of court support services which are provided, on a voluntary basis, to assist clients who are having difficulty in understanding the Court process or accessing legal advice or representation.
Salvation Army - Court and Prison Chaplaincy
A Salvation Army Chaplain attends court on a regular basis to offer help and support through the Court process to offenders, their families, victims, and witnesses. This service can be important as a referral service to other programs such as:
- personal development programs
- alcohol and drug programs
- housing and homeless services
- aged care assistance
- women's domestic violence services
- financial counselling.
Migrant Resource Centre
The Migrant Resource Centre assists humanitarian migrants who have entered Tasmania in the last five years when they are involved with the Court system.
The Migrant Resource Centre provides the following case management support services:
- support and advocacy for people proceeding through the justice system
- point of liaison between Police, Courts, Legal Aid, Department of Justice, Corrective Services and clients
- support for clients to report incidents to the Police and the Office of the Anti- Discrimination Commissioner
- education and awareness raising on legal issues for clients
- capacity building for services who work with culturally and linguistically diverse community members
- referrals to relevant agencies within the justice system such as Legal Aid, Hobart Community Legal Service, Women's Legal Service, etc.
- Referrals to other relevant government and non-government agencies.
The case management services ensure clients, who are proceeding through the justice system, understand the information relating to their legal matter and are treated with cultural sensitivity.
Save the Children
The 'Supporting Young People on Bail' Program commenced in May 2011 in the Magistrates Court (Youth Justice Division) in Hobart. An initiative of Save the Children Fund (Australia), the program assists young people, not subject to other court orders, while they are on bail. This program has helped numerous young persons while on bail to not reoffend.
Provision has been made for an interview room at the Hobart Magistrates Court for a Youth Worker from Save the Children to interview the young person and develop a Bail Support Plan. The plan is designed to identify the recreational, educational and vocational/employment goals and aspirations of the young person. The Bail Plan is presented to the Magistrate in court, and progress on the plan is reported at subsequent appearances.
There are four referral streams to Save the Children - the Specialist Youth Justice Magistrate, Youth Justice (DHHS), a Youth Worker identifying a young person in court, or the Police (Early Intervention Unit).
Baptcare and Mission Australia
Other services that actively engage with the Youth Justice Court are Baptcare and Mission Australia offering assistance and support to young people with a range of needs, such as homelessness, alcohol and drug problems, education and training, family breakdown, and mental illness.
Community Legal Services
In each region of the State the Court is assisted by the various Community Legal Services.
The Hobart Community Legal Service has offices in Hobart and Bridgewater. Along with the provision of free legal advice, the HCLS operates the Volunteer Court Support Scheme. In Launceston the Launceston Community Legal Centre provides free legal advice and referral to Legal Aid and private practitioners. In Burnie and Devonport the North West Community Legal Centre Inc. provides a similar service. All these organisations assist the Court greatly in preparing parties on how the Court process operates and what is expected to happen in the courtroom.
The jurisdiction and operation of the Coronial Division is set out in the Coroners Act 1995, and the Coroners Rules 2006. This report is submitted pursuant to the Coroners Act 1995 s69.
Coroners have the power to inquire into reportable deaths, fires, and explosions. The purpose of the coronial jurisdiction is to learn from the circumstances surrounding deaths, fires and explosions with a view to reducing the likelihood of these arising again in the future. In addition, coroners undertake the primary investigation into those deaths where the circumstances appear to be suspicious.
Coroner Olivia McTaggart continued her role as the Chief Magistrate’s delegate and full-time Coroner, and Coroner Simon Cooper was allocated a full-time coronial case-load in April. Coroners Rod Chandler and Stephen Carey continued to provide part-time assistance.
I also acknowledge the Coronial Division’s continued working relationships with:
- the State Forensic Pathologist Dr Chris Lawrence, Forensic Pathologist Dr Don Ritchey, approved Pathologists Dr Terry Brain and Dr Ruchira Fernando, and their dedicated staff;
- the Office of the Commissioner of Tasmania Police for the vital work undertaken by coroner’s associates and all Tasmanian police officers in coronial investigations;
- Forensic Odontologists Dr Paul Taylor, Dr Patrick Oxbrough and staff;
- Forensic Anthropologist Dr Anne-Marie Williams:
- Forensic Science Service Tasmania Director Laszlo Szabo and toxicologists and forensic scientists Neil McLachlan-Troup, Miriam Connor, Craig Gardner and their dedicated staff, including forensic technicians Sally Pretyman, Paul Anderson, and Amy Kok;
- Forensic biologist Pam Scott and her team and forensic chemists Michael Manthey and Claire Fulton;
- Professor Tony Bell, Clinical Medical Adviser, and Clinical Nurse Specialist, Libby Newman;
- the General Manager of Workplace Standards Tasmania, Martin Shirley, and his investigative teams; and
- the operators of the Mortuary Ambulance Services.
Coronial Findings and Recommendations
All findings and recommendations considered by Coroners to be of public interest are published on the Magistrates Court website.
Deaths in Custody
As required by s69(2)(a) of the Act, I report that during the reporting period there were four deaths reported where the deceased died “in custody” (as defined in s3 of the Coroners Act 1995).
During the reporting period, inquests were conducted and completed into three deaths in custody, one that occurred in facilities operated by the Tasmanian Prison Service. The findings of all inquests have been published on the Magistrates Court website.
Deaths in Care
During the reporting period there were four deaths reported of persons held “in care” within the meaning of the Coroners Act 1995. During the reported period one inquest was completed in relation to deaths in care. The Coroner has published a de-identified version of the findings on the Magistrates Court website.
The Magistrates Court contributes to the Department of Justice output entitled ‘Administration of Justice’ and the Court’s funding is set out in Table 26 below.
511 - Salaries and Wages
512 - Other Employee Related Expenses
522 - Information Technology
523 - Materials Supplies & Equipment
524 - Travel and Transport
525 - Property Expenses
528 – Other Expenditure
529 - Consultants