Australian gov't unveils new military court system

21:28, May 24, 2010      

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A new military court system is to be created with judges completely independent of the Australian defense force, an official said on Monday.

The move followed last year's High Court decision striking down the former Australian Military Court.

Defense Minister John Faulkner said the new courts would be established under Chapter 3 of the constitution, overcoming the key High Court objection to the old structure.

Faulkner said the court would deal with serious service offenses by Australian Defense Force (ADF) members in a fair and timely manner in Australia and overseas.

"It is critically important to the men and women of the ADF that they have access to an effective military justice system," Faulkner told reporters.

"The judicial officers of the new court cannot be permanent or reserve members of the ADF. Guaranteeing the court's independence will avoid the pitfalls that led to the downfall of the Australian Military Court established by the previous government in 2007."

However, Faulkner said that it is important the court brought an understanding of the special nature of military justice and the environment in which decisions are made.

For that reason, judicial officers would need either past military service or familiarity with the ADF.

The former Australian Military Court was established in 2007 and heard 171 cases before it was challenged by former sailor Brian Lane.

The High Court has ruled that the Australian Military Court, although expressly not a court according to its legislation, was exercising the judicial power of the commonwealth and that made it invalid under the Australian Constitution.

The new court will be constituted in separate upper and lower divisions with judicial officers at the level of federal court judge and federal magistrate.

Initially there will be dual appointments between the new court and the federal courts.

The decision will be a new lease of life to the Federal Magistrates Court, created by the former government, but which Labor promised to abolish. That will now be restructured, with its family law responsibilities moved to the Family Court.

Legislation establishing the new court will be introduced to parliament this year with the new court operational late next year.

Source: Xinhua


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