THE Federal Magistrates Court is going to be scrapped as part of a federal government bid to make the court system more affordable for users.
Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, today announced a restructure of federal courts he says will better deliver legal and justice services.
The restructure, which the Government said will save $7.8 million over four years, will include merging the Federal Magistrates Court into the Family Court and the Federal Court.
“Ensuring the courts are structured and administered to deliver an efficient and cost-effective service to the Australian community is a key element in improving access to justice,” McClelland said.
Currently, matters under Commonwealth law are heard by the Federal Magistrates Court, the Family Court or the Federal Court. Both the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court can hear family law matters and the Federal Court and Federal Magistrates Court also share jurisdiction in some general federal law maters.
A government-backed report released last year, ‘Future Governance Options for Federal Family Law Courts in Australia’, found the court structure financial unsustainable, confusing and expensive.
These arrangements have led to confusion amongst litigants, inefficiencies in funding and administration and impeded access to justice for the community, the Attorney said.
Today's announcement follows extensive consultation with the courts, legal professional bodies, key stakeholders and the public following recommendations contained in the government’s 2008 discussion paper.
As part of the restructure, all family law matters will be consolidated under the Family Court, while all general federal law matters will move under the Federal Court.
“The reforms will effectively create a one-stop-shop in family and other federal law matters, ensuring an integrated and accessible system that focuses on dispute resolution," McClelland said.
The restructure will occur in conjunction with work already being undertaken by the courts to simplify rules and procedures, he said.
“The restructure forms part of the Government’s broader commitment to reduce the cost of litigation and facilitate the faster resolution of disputes. In doing so, it will enable our Federal Courts to focus on assisting people, particularly those involved in family law matters."