Hilary Hannam CM

CLANT farewells Northern Territory Chief Magistrate Hilary Hannam, who has vacated one bench to take up a position on another: the Parramatta Registry of the Family Court.  We wish Ms Hannam well, and thank her for her service in what is widely regarded as one of the more thankless jobs in our beleaguered justice system. 

On 17 July 2013, shortly before her departure, Ms Hannam delivered this paper to the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration conference on Indigenous Justice.  Her Honour’s paper is a characteristically pugnacious and persuasive critique of recent changes in our justice system, and well worth reading.  Significantly, in her paper Ms Hannam expresses concern at “the overarching trend of removing [judicial] discretion”, echoing themes developed by Chief Justice Trevor Riley in his Keynote Address to the 2013 CLANT Conference.

At her farewell function hosted by the Chief Justice, Ms Hannam spoke warmly of her time in the Territory, and also made the following remarks:

I do stand behind my uncompromising approach to the things that matter, such as the quality of justice being delivered by the Magistrates Court, the independence of the Court and the importance of the Magistrates Court to rule of law in the Territory. I also stand by the uncompromising approach I have taken to the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, being children and in expressing my disappointment in the failure of some to rely on extensive and sound evidence and research about what works and doesn’t work in the criminal justice system. I also hold an uncompromising view that it is more difficult now for Magistrates to be able to have the kind of impact that I believe the community expects us to have in the area of criminal justice, than was the case three years ago.

To which CLANT rejoins: Hear, Hear!