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News from 2010

Country Care Circuits Rosters for 2011

December 2010: Firstly, in regions of the state where there is consistent workload the Children's Court will provide specialist Children's Magistrates to operate two permanent circuits from 7 February 2011. These circuits will operate in the Lismore, Dubbo and Riverina regions in accordance with the attached document. Please note that week one commences from the first Monday of each month.

New care applications filed at these courts should be listed as soon as possible before the Local Court Magistrate or on a nominated list day before the Children's Magistrate, but only if that day is earlier than the matter could be listed before the Local Court Magistrate. After dealing with any application for interim orders Local Court Magistrates should adjourn the matter to the day nominated as the list day before the specialist Children's Magistrate and thereafter the matter will be case managed by the specialist Children's Magistrate.

For all other courts not covered by these permanent circuits a new country assistance protocol will apply. Under this new protocol Local Court Magistrates will be able to seek the assistance of the President to allocate a Children's Magistrates to hear complex cases requiring specialist knowledge, matters that are likely to exceed the time standards and matters that require a lengthy hearing.

See the 2011 Country Care Circuits Roster.

President Issues Amended Practice Note No. 2

October 2010: The President has issued an Amended Practice Note No. 2. This Practice Note takes effect from 27 September 2010.

Care Circuits Rosters 2011

June 2010: Following the recommendation of the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales, the Court has committed to making more specialist Children's Magistrates available to hear more complex contested care and protection cases. To this end the President of the Children's Court has allocated care circuits in rural and regional areas of New South Wales for 2010.

Notwithstanding the recent appointment of additional Children's Magistrates it is not anticipated that all care and protection cases will be able to be dealt with by a specialist Children’s Magistrate and due to the small or changeable volume of care matters in some locations it may not be practicable to schedule specific sittings in some areas of the State. However, assistance can be provided on a case by case basis to areas not covered by the scheduled sittings.

A protocol is already in place for Local Court Magistrates to seek assistance from the Children’s Court where the particular circumstances of the case justifies the use of a specialist Children’s Magistrates or the Local Court is unable to deal with the matter under the Children's Court established time standards for care and protection cases.

Care and protection proceedings filed in rural and regional courts will ordinarily be case managed by the local Magistrate, and as far as possible given priority when listing.

For information on circuit rosters organised for 2010 please see:

Latest issue of Children's Law News

May 2010: The Children's Court has released a new edition of Children's Law News featuring the latest judgments from the Court's crime and care jurisdiction.

Pilot of a "docket system" 8 February 2010 at the Parramatta Children's Court

February 2010: The Hon James Wood AO QC in his Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW made a number of recommendations concerning the practice and procedure of the Children’s Court of New South Wales. One of those recommendations is that a trial of a formal “docket system” should be undertaken in the care and protection jurisdiction at the Parramatta Children’s Court.

In his report Commissioner Wood describes a “docket system” as a system of case management whereby cases are allocated to a single judicial officer for the duration of proceedings (from the first return date to the final hearing). Commissioner Wood took the view that such a system would ensure that a consistent approach was adopted throughout the course of proceedings.

It is widely recognised that a docket system may result in other significant benefits. Such benefits include greater time efficiencies resulting from the judicial officer responsible for a particular case having a close knowledge of the case and the relevant issues in the case. It is also recognised that a docket system, whereby the same judicial officer manages the case from the first time the proceedings come before the court, may result in greater understanding of and satisfaction in the ultimate result by the parties.

The Children’s Court supports Commissioner Wood’s recommendation that a trial of a docket system be conducted at the Parramatta Children’s Court. Accordingly, as from Monday 8 February 2010 the court will, as far as is practicably possible, allocate the same judicial officer to conduct the Monday and Friday care list days at that court. As far as is practicably possible the allocated judicial officer will case manage all the matters in their list and, should the matter require to be listed for a hearing, that judicial officer will list the matter for hearing before himself or herself at a time convenient to the court and, as far as is reasonably possible, to the parties.

The Tuesday care list will not be included in the trial and different judicial officers may be allocated to sit on that list day.

The court’s listing practice at Parramatta Children’s Court with respect to care applications will continue; that is, if an application is filed before midday on a particular day the matter will be listed before the court on the next sitting day. If an application is filed after midday on a particular day the matter will be listed before the court on the second sitting day following the filing of the application. In this regard, Community Services should, as far as is reasonably practicable, endeavour to file an application so that the matter will, in accordance with the above practice, first come before the court on the list day applicable to the relevant Community Services Centre. In this way, cases in the Monday and Friday list days, will, as far as is possible, be subject to case management under the new docket system from the time the matter first comes before the court.

The trial will be conducted for a period of 12 months. It is proposed that an evaluation of the pilot will be conducted during which feedback will be sought from both practitioners and the parties as to their satisfaction with the new system.

His Honour Judge Mark Marien SC
President

1 February 2010