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Community Magistrates

Community Magistrates are a vital part of the District Court judiciary and play a valued and essential role in dealing with the court’s criminal work in the communities they serve.

They preside in the criminal jurisdiction on a part-time basis, hearing less serious cases coming before the criminal court.

Community Magistrates may preside over trials for offences carrying a maximum penalty of a fine up to $40,000 and all infringement offences.

Their substantive jurisdiction extends to offences under the Fisheries Act 1996, the Dog Control Act 1996, the Summary Offences Act 1981 and other regulatory Acts.

They are able to sentence offenders who plead guilty to offences punishable by up to three months’ imprisonment. However, Community Magistrates cannot themselves impose sentences of imprisonment.

They also often preside over bail hearings and undertake a variety of case-management related tasks involving offences outside their jurisdiction.

Community Magistrates are recruited to be representative of their communities in the criminal justice system, based on their life skills and experience.

Representatives of various Taranaki justice service agencies welcome Community Magistrates during a pōwhiri at their annual conference in New Plymouth.

The Community Magistrate role was designed from inception to increase community involvement in the justice system and to reduce delays by freeing up judges to deal with more complex matters.

The expertise and community connection of Community Magistrates continues to enhance that community involvement and benefit. They have become a vital cog in the administration of justice and are very highly regarded by District Court judges.

Image of Community Magistrates and Judges sitting at conference tables.

(From left) Community Magistrates Kathy Wilson, Lau Lemalu and Brigid Corcoran and National Executive Judge Lawry Hinton during the 2019 CM's annual conference in New Plymouth.

New Zealand’s 18 Community Magistrates sit in areas around the country, including Northland, Auckland, Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Taranaki, Whanganui, Wellington, Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago.

The involvement of Community Magistrates in work formerly carried out by District Court judges has been a significant and permanent benefit to the District Court, and to the communities we serve.

"The involvement of Community Magistrates in work formerly carried out by District Court judges has been a significant and permanent benefit to the District Court, and to the communities we serve."

The Chief District Court Judge is responsible for their rostering, training and professional development, which is done with the assistance of the National Executive Judge.

 

Group photo

National Executive Judge Lawry Hinton (second from right) joins Community Magistrates and support staff from the Chief Judge’s Office at their annual conference in October 2019.