THE Law Society of Tasmania says it’s unlikely that a 30-year-flaw in the way that magistrates have been appointed will affect past legal decisions.
Yesterday the state government revealed that magistrates, coroners and justices of the peace hadn’t been appointed in accordance with the law for three decades.
The realisation saw the government scramble to swear in all current magistrates properly yesterday morning to ensure that their authority was valid.
Magistrates, coroners and justices of the peace are meant to take the “judicial oath” in front of Tasmania’s governor or a Supreme Court justice.
But since the mid-80s it appears they’ve only been taking the oath in front of other magistrates.
Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin said “legal doctrine” would uphold the validity of past decisions, sentences and actions made by magistrates.
Law society president Matthew Verney said the alternative would be “somewhat chaotic” and he didn’t envisage any challenges to past decisions in the magistrates court.
“The bottom line is to maintain public confidence in the courts, and I don’t think that’s been challenged by this,” he said.
Mr Verney said it was positive to see government publicly identifying the problem and addressing it.
The government did not say how the oversight was caught.
However, Ms Goodwin has previously said that she hoped to modernise some of the state’s legal practices.
She said the requirement to have the judicial oath taken by the Governor was “impractical and outdated”.
“An amendment will be introduced in the next sitting of Parliament … to allow the oath to be taken before a magistrate,” she said.
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