New magistrates level the gender gap

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James Lawton will replace long-term magistrate Karen Fryar.

AFTER the appointment of two new magistrates this morning (April 9), the ACT Magistrates Court now has a 50-50 split of both male and female representatives on the bench.

The ACT Magistrates Court appointed a new full time magistrate, James Lawton, following the retirement of long-term magistrate Karen Fryar, and a part time magistrate, James Stewart.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay announced the appointment Mr Lawton this morning saying he has had significant practice in the ACT Magistrates Court, the NSW Local Court, the ACT Supreme Court and NSW District Court.

Mr Ramsay says he also has significant experience in both criminal and civil law. 

“He worked for the ACT Legal Aid Office Criminal Law Section before beginning a career as a prosecutor in 2000,” he says. 

“He was a senior advocate at the ACT Office of the director of Public Prosecutions prior to joining the ACT Bar and has been a member of the ACT Bar since 2012.

“Mr Lawton has twice been an ACT Bar Association Council member and has chaired its Criminal Law Committee.”

The ACT Magistrates Court’s first part-time magistrate was also appointed this morning. 

“Since being called to the bar in 2006, Mr Stewart has developed a successful criminal and civil practice in all levels of Australian state and Federal Courts,” Minister Ramsay says. 

“Mr Stewart commenced his practice in the ACT in 2013, whilst also lecturing for the Australian National University.

“He has been a member of the ACT Bar Association Bar Council for the past two years and chairs its Continuing Professional Development Committee.”

The ACT Bar Association president, Steve Whybrow says:“It is pleasing to see both these appointments come from the local Bar, demonstrating not only the quality of legal practitioners in the territory but the Attorney’s faith in the local profession.”

“That said, the loss of Mr Lawton and Mr Stewart from the Criminal Bar will put some pressure on the Criminal Bar in the territory,” he says.

“I am hoping that these appointments will encourage more people, particularly some of the exceptional young women and men working for the DPP and ACT Legal Aid Office, to come to the Bar.”

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