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New Chief Magistrate of NSW Local Court named

Major changes have been made in NSW’s courts, including the appointment of a new Chief Magistrate of the Local Court.

user iconNaomi Neilson 20 June 2024 Big Law
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NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley announced the appointment of Judge Michael Allen to Chief Magistrate of the Local Court, following stints as deputy chief magistrate and judge of the District Court.

Judge Allen has almost 40 years of experience in all areas of law, including family and domestic violence, serious crime, workers’ compensation, and in the civil law space.

Judge Peter Johnstone, who currently holds the role, will retire in July.


“Judge Allen is a highly experienced jurist,” Daley said.

“I would like to thank retiring Chief Magistrate Judge Peter Johnstone for his outstanding service over the past three years as chief magistrate and before that as the president of the Children’s Court.”

Judge Allen started his career in private practice in 1986, became a barrister in 2001, then moved into the Local Court and was appointed its deputy chief magistrate in 2018.

From 2022, Judge Allen was an acting judge of the District Court and was made permanent out of Penrith in early 2023.

The NSW Law Society said Judge Allen will “provide excellent leadership” of the busiest jurisdiction in the southern hemisphere.

“His Honour’s broad experience, including in the regions, and as a former Law Society accredited specialist in criminal law, means he is well acquainted with the challenges facing the justice system and the solicitors who work within it,” NSW Law Society president Brett McGrath said.

“I look forward to working with Judge Allen on behalf of the solicitor profession in NSW.”

McGrath wished Judge Johnstone a “happy and fulfilling retirement”.

NSW senior public defender Belinda Rigg SC, who most recently represented Chris Dawson on appeal, was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court.

As senior public defender, Rigg led a team of 29 to best serve NSW Legal Aid and the Aboriginal Legal Service.

In addition to her work with Dawson, Rigg has appeared in a number of challenging murder trials and sentence matters.

Daley said he was “delighted” by the appointment.

“Rigg’s expertise will be invaluable to the court and everyone who interacts with it,” Daley said.

“I congratulate her on this well-deserved achievement.”

McGrath also congratulated Rigg, who has “proven to be a trailblazer for women in the profession”.

“Her appointment to the bench further enhances the representation of accomplished women as judicial officers in NSW,” McGrath said.

“The Law Society looks forward to welcoming both appointees to their respective courts at ceremonial sittings next month.”