New Chief Magistrate Appointed to the Local Court of NSW
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What is the role of the Chief Magistrate?
The Chief Magistrate is the principal judicial officer of the NSW Local Court. The Chief Magistrate is appointed by the Governor of New South Wales and has responsibility for allocating judicial resources and scheduling court sittings in NSW Local Courts. The Chief Magistrate is supported by the Chief Magistrate’s Executive Office in this role.
Judge Peter Johnstone named as new Chief Magistrate of the NSW Local Court
On 1 September NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced Judge Peter Johnstone as the new Chief Magistrate of the NSW Local Court. Judge Johnstone graduated from the University of Sydney in 1971, before being admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1973. Judge Johnstone practiced as a solicitor, before being appointed as an Acting District Court Judge in 2006. His Honour became a full-time judge of the District Court in 2006, before taking the position of President of the NSW Children’s Court in 2012, the position he held until his appointment as Chief Magistrate.
“Judge Johnstone will bring a significant breadth of experience to his Honour’s new role. Our state is fortunate to have the services of judicial talent of his Honour’s calibre to lead the Local Court,” Speakman said.
The announcement of Judge Johnstone as Chief Magistrate has been welcomed by the legal profession. Julia Warner, president of the NSW Law Society, welcomed the announcement, highlighting the respect Judge Johnstone holds in legal circles for his work, particularly in developing diversionary strategies keeping children out of juvenile detention.
Significantly, Judge Johnstone assisted in establishing the Youth Koori Court, created in response to the significant over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the criminal justice system. His Honour also set up other intervention and diversionary strategies to address issues of drugs, alcohol, mental health and housing, to assist in keeping young Indigenous offenders out of prison.
Former Chief Magistrate Judge Henson
Judge Johnstone replaces former Chief Magistrate Judge Henson, the longest serving Chief Magistrate in the Local Court. Judge Henson retired in August 2021, following a career of 33 years on the bench, the last 15 of which were spent as head of the Local Court.
Judge Henson is well respected in the legal profession, having been a significant campaigner for greater efficiency in the delivery of justice, gender parity on the bench and transparency in the court process.
President of the Children’s Court
Following Judge Johnstone’s appointment as Chief Magistrate, Magistrate Ellen Skinner has been appointed as the acting President of the NSW Children’s Court. Magistrate Skinner will hold this position until the appointment of a permanent President.