Opinion: City of Karratha needs a permanent magistrate

Peter LongPilbara News
Karratha courthouse.
Camera IconKarratha courthouse. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

It is encouraging to see a renewed community push for a full-time magistrate to be assigned to Karratha Magistrate’s Court.

Karratha is one of just two major regional centres in Western Australia that does not have a permanent magistrate, with the only resident magistrate in the Pilbara based in South Hedland.

This magistrate and a relief magistrate from Perth service our local court for two weeks of each month.

Due to the rotating nature of the attending magistrate, this arrangement fails to address community and stakeholder concerns.

Your council has lobbied the State Government for a full-time magistrate for many years now, to no avail.

I wrote to the Attorney-General and Chief Magistrate in May after the WA Government released its 2018-2019 budget, which included a provision for two additional magistrates for WA, requesting that one be assigned to the Karratha Magistrate’s Court.

Unfortunately, the response was unfavourable.

The State Government did not consider there was enough work to justify a full-time magistrate here, in spite of the waiting times we endure between visits and when the magistrate is here.

Apart from speeding up the slow court process, a full-time resident magistrate would develop a thorough understanding of community issues, which would facilitate stronger relationships with agencies which serve the court, including police, prosecutors, legal representatives and referral agencies.

We are disappointed it seems the Department of Justice does not intend to allocate a magistrate to Karratha in the foreseeable future, but we understand the Chief Magistrate monitors the current arrangement at Karratha Magistrate’s Court every six months, so we will continue to advocate for a permanent magistrate to service the needs of our growing City.

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