The NSW Local Court has gained some new magistrates as the focus continues on achieving greater gender balance.
Barristers Melissa Humphreys, Kirralee Tennant and Justin Peach and solicitors Nicole Ford and Robyn Richardson have been named the NSW Local Court’s newest magistrates.
Ms Richardson will be sworn in first on 15 February, followed by Ms Humphreys and Mr Peach on 1 March, and then Ms Tennant and Ms Ford on 15 March.
A statement provided to Lawyers Weekly detailed the significance of the five new appointees.
It noted that Ms Humphreys has been a lawyer since 2005 and was called to the Bar in 2007. Throughout her career, Ms Humphreys has focused principally on criminal, civil and family law matters.
She has regularly appeared in the District Court in jury and judge-alone trials, sentence hearings and appeals and in the Local Court, and routinely appears for parents and Independent Children’s Lawyers in The Federal Circuit Court and The Family Court of Australia in both property and parenting matters, including appellate work, the statement read.
Ms Tennant was admitted as a solicitor to the NSW Supreme Court in 2001 and has worked in criminal law for the last 19 years. She was called to the Bar in 2018 and during her time in law has worked extensively with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and her most recent position is as Crown prosecutor in Gosford.
She has appeared regularly in the Local Court, Children’s Court, District Court and Supreme Court and has been involved in some of the state’s most complex cases, the statement noted.
Ms Ford, who will be allocated to the Children’s Court to replace magistrate Jeffrey Hogg, has spent her 25-year legal career working in rural and regional communities. She started working in a Wagga Wagga law firm in private practice before joining Legal Aid in 2007, with her most recent position spent as a solicitor in charge of the Legal Aid NSW Riverina Murray offices in Wagga Wagga and Albury.
According to the statement, Mr Peach was admitted as a lawyer in 2005, joining Aubrey Brown Partners on the Central Coast and appearing regularly in the Local, District and Children’s Courts in criminal and civil litigation before being admitted to the NSW Bar in 2018. He joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2010, becoming a Crown prosecutor in 2018 and conducting complex District Court trials.
Last but not least, Ms Richardson is described as an accredited specialist in criminal law, establishing her own practice in 2013, five years after she was admitted as a lawyer to the NSW Supreme Court. The statement noted she worked for the Director of Public Prosecutions and leading criminal defence firms in Sydney, and was also an intern in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
In announcing the appointments, Attorney-General Mark Speakman noted the move pushes the Local Court cover to achieve gender balance. It increased the female headcount to a record of 69, or 49.3 per cent of the total number of 140 magistrates.
“It is heartening to see the gender gap closing further in the upper echelons of the traditionally male-dominated justice system, recognising the deep reservoir of legal talent among females in the profession,” Mr Speakman said.
“The new magistrates have a wide range of experience, with much of it gained in the Local Court.
“The Local Court is the backbone of the legal system. It deals with 96 per cent of all criminal prosecutions and more than 90 per cent of all civil litigation in NSW.”