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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Editorial on Visiting Judges [1855] NSWSupCMB 22

Visiting Judges

Source: Moreton Bay Courier, 26 May 1855, p. 2


THE last week has furnished us with another powerful argument in favour of a local Government. The Circuit Court was appointed to be opened on Monday last, but suitors, witnesses, and jurors have danced attendance throughout the week in vain. The whole chance of having a Court held at the proper timer depended upon a Particular steam vessel making the trip between Sydney and Moreton Bay in a particular time; and that chance having failed, all attendants upon "the laws delay" have been kept waiting with impatience and anxiety, arising from the certainty of loss and damage by being so long kept from their ordinary avocations.

On a former occasion when the Chief Justice visited this town on Assize business, his Honour was much distressed by the inconvenience suffered by himself and his staff. They had a bad passage in the steamer. His Honour's nerves were discomposed. It therefore became evident to him that a plan should be devised whereby he and the other gentlemen connected with the Circuit should be saved from further inconvenience of that kind. Accordingly, Sir ALFRED STEPHENS took some trouble in the framing of a Bill to establish a local Court of judicature, which might dispense with the attendance of a judge. It provided for a Court of record, the head of which was to be an officer with the title of recorder; but there was no provision to do away with a frequent reference to the superior Courts in Sydney .

However unsatisfactory as the Bill was, it was rejected in the Sydney legislative Council, and Moreton Bay was again left to the tender mercies of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, so far as the administration of justice was concerned. Since this abortive attempt on the part of his Honour the Chief Justice, the Judges holding Courts at Brisbane have apparently endeavoured to "shave" the time when they were required here, with the utmost degree of nicety. They have sometimes arrived at the last hour, when their arrival was despaired of; and no doubt there has been much gratulation at the fact that they came at last in time. The people of Moreton Bay have been, at least, astonished.

But is it right that the administration of justice at Moreton Bay should depend upon a steamer? Have we not a right to expect some better arrangement from those who govern us? The tardy arrival of the Judge will not compensate the many people who have been waiting for him for their losses, and we do not see how they can be otherwise compensated.

If we had a Government at Moreton Bay , all these losses and annoyances might have been prevented. The jurors, witnesses, and other attendants at the Circuit Court would not have to wait for the Judge; Sir ALFRED STEPHEN would not again be annoyed with the framing of a measure that was to be rejected; and the prisoners awaiting their trials, many of them perhaps innocent, would not be subjected to unnecessary imprisonment.

The appointment of a Resident Judge might in some degree lessen the evils complained of; but nothing can afford a permanent assurance of better things exception the establishment of Moreton Bay as a separate Colony from New South Wales.

Further editorial re 'The Cost of Justice' referring to Gray & Gill ( Ipswich ).

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University