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Community Magistrates

The judicial work of the District Court is undertaken not only by judges, but also by Community Magistrates. They have an important role in dealing with the court’s criminal work in the communities where they serve.

In all there are 14 Community Magistrates who sit in nine regions: Northland; Auckland; Manukau; Waikato; Bay of Plenty; Hawke’s Bay; Gisborne; Taranaki and Whanganui. As well, Community Magistrates from Auckland sit in Christchurch from time to time under a pilot which has been underway since October 2016.

Community Magistrates are lay judicial officers recruited to represent their communities based on their skills and experience. The role itself was designed to increase community involvement in the justice system and to reduce delays by freeing up judges to deal with more complex matters.

Community Magistrates work part-time and have a jurisdiction wider than that of judicial Justices of the Peace. They deal with a wide-ranging body of work which would otherwise be allocated to judges.

They can sentence offenders for offences punishable by up to three months’ imprisonment, though they cannot themselves impose sentences of imprisonment. They may preside over trials for offences carrying a maximum penalty of a fine up to $40,000.

Community Magistrates mainly sit in busy “list” courts. This may involve: sentencing offenders who plead guilty on the day; dealing with opposed bail applications; taking pleas and jury trial elections; making and renewing interim suppression or other non-publication orders; and remanding defendants in anticipation of probation, forensic or restorative justice reports and voluntary alcohol, drug or rehabilitative programmes.

“Community Magistrates work part-time and have a jurisdiction wider than that of judicial Justices of the Peace”

The Chief District Court Judge is responsible for the rostering, training and professional development of Community Magistrates, which is done with the assistance of the National Executive Judge.

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