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New magistrate for Local Court

Saturday, 30th March, 2019

By Craig Brealey

The saga of the missing magistrate is about to reach its end.

The city has been without a resident magistrate for more than a year and yesterday the NSW Department of Justice announced that one had been finally appointed.

Daniel Covington, who has been working as a magistrate in Sydney, is due to commence sitting at the Local Court circuit on April 29.  

The city’s previous permanent magistrate, Geoff Dunlevy, left in December 2017 and relieving magistrates have been flown in to conduct the Broken Hill-Wilcannia-Wentworth circuit since then.

His replacement was to have started work in April last year but the government-owned magistrate’s house was deemed unsuitable.

The Department of Justice said at the time that a new property would have to be found and the old one sold before the new magistrate could be appointed.

Several months later the department said the house would be renovated instead.

The absence of a permanent magistrate, for the first time in Broken Hill’s history, was condemned across political party lines.

In April last year Liberals and Nationals in the NSW Upper House backed a Labor motion to have a magistrate appointed without delay.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Chief Magistrate’s Office told the BDT that Mr Covington had been sitting at local and children’s courts in Sydney for the past 14 months, including at the state’s busiest court, the Downing Centre.

“Before being appointed to the bench in January 2018, he served as a Legal Aid solicitor for more than a decade during which he instructed counsel in trials in the Supreme Court and appeared in sentencing hearings in the District Court,” the spokesman said. 

“Mr Covington began his career in his home town of Wollongong where he worked as a solicitor for a private firm.”

NSW Attorney General, Mark Speakman, welcomed the appointment and thanked the relieving magistrates for their work in the interim.

“The appointment of Magistrate Daniel Covington as the new permanent resident magistrate for Broken Hill and districts is great news for the Far West of NSW,” Mr Speakman said. 

“His Honour will also sit one week a month at Wentworth and two days a month at Wilcannia.” 

The Broken Hill Local Court had not suffered any reduction in sitting days since the departure of Mr Dunlevy, but the appointment of Mr Covington would provide the district’s legal profession and court users with certainty, Mr Speakman said.

“I thank the relieving magistrates including their honours Roger Prowse and Alex Mijovich for their dedication to ensuring the region continued to have access to justice in the Local Court.”

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