2014 Magistrates Work Experience Program – Balawyn Jones
In 2014, JATL received an unprecedented number of applications for its annual Magistrates Work Experience Program, organised with the support of the Magistrates Court of Queensland and UQ Pro Bono Centre. BA/LLB candidate Balawyn Jones was one of the successful applicants out of a very talented pool of candidates. These are her reflections on her experiences during the Program
I had the good fortune of being paired with Magistrate Jacqueline Payne. A cursory Google search shows how influential Magistrate Payne has been in the legal sphere. As some of you would know, Magistrate Payne was the first Indigenous woman to be admitted as a solicitor, and also be appointed to the Magistrates Court, in Queensland. Magistrate Payne has been involved in many high-profile cases during her time on the bench, including the Haneef, Bali Nine and Musgrave Park ‘Tent Embassy’ cases.
Magistrate Payne’s experience in private practice (having started her own firm) and in both the Magistrate’s and Murri Court, although important to my experience, was not the thing that struck me most about my time in the Court. From my first day, Magistrate Payne made me feel welcome and involved, and through this experience and her kindness I learnt more from one person than I have in years of study.
Off to a running start, I had the privilege in my first week of sitting in the Murri Court with Magistrate Payne and the Indigenous Elders and Respected Persons. I learnt a lot about the complexity of issues that are faced by actors in the legal system, in particular the challenges faced in the application of criminal law to disadvantaged and marginalised defendants.
Magistrate Payne ensured that I was sitting in on different types of cases every week and so I experienced everything from arrest to sentencing. Magistrate Payne went to lengths to explain the context and policy behind the points of law that were raised in court, for example the difference between context and excuse in criminal law. She even made traffic court interesting, with tea break discussions on the mandatory sentencing policy behind traffic infringements.
I was lucky enough to be able to conduct research for reserved decisions and to spend time in between sessions picking her brain on anything from the front page of the newspaper that day to cultural diversity or feminism. Every day I spent in the Magistrates Court Program was exciting, whether I was listening to the details of elaborate car chases in a bail hearing or being subject to a demonstration of the ‘Number 1 come along hold’ by the Police Prosecutor (I shouldn’t have asked…).
This experience connected my degree to real people and real scenarios. I would highly recommend the Program to anyone! Many thanks again to the UQ Pro Bono Centre and JATL for facilitating this wonderful opportunity and, of course, Magistrate Payne for putting up with me shadowing her for weeks on end.