Magistrate from Port Macquarie, Ms Dominique Burns, was referred to NSW Parliament after complaints were made regarding her conduct in separate cases between June 2016 and February 2017.
In making the complaint, lawyers from Legal Aid alleged that Ms Burns ‘misused her detention powers, denied procedural fairness, imposed sentences which exceeded the maximum penalty, and improperly encouraged police prosecutors to lay further charges’.
In January of this year, the NSW Parliament released a report of inquiry which substantiated the complaints. Click here to read the report.
In the report, Justice Anthony Payne from the Court of Appeal, Judge Roger Dive from the Drug Court, and former NSW Police commissioner Ken Moroney upheld 16 of the 17 complaints made against Ms Burns. Ms Burns was found to have engaged in “serious instances of misbehaviour”, and that her conduct “could justify parliamentary consideration of the removal of the judicial officer from office”.
The report also found Magistrate Burns’ practice of determining bail for appeals in her office instead of in an open court to be “a manifest denial of procedural fairness”. In giving evidence during the hearing, Magistrate Burns acknowledged her mistakes, however, justified her conduct as being the direct result of her “crushing workload”.
Ms Burns has been suspended from duty since June 2017 and is due to face Parliament in the next session.
This comes as a surprise to the community as only a handful of previous judicial officers have been referred to NSW Parliament thus far, and none have been successfully removed from the bar.
Nonetheless, this procedure is by far a good parameter in order to ensure that appropriate checks are placed on the judicial system, which a common person otherwise implicitly trusts.
The team at F&G will be following this story closely, so be sure to follow our Facebook page for the most recent updates!