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Farewell for His Honour Judge Peter Lauritsen, Chief Magistrate

Farewell for His Honour Judge Peter Lauritsen, Chief Magistrate

By LIV Media


May it please the court.

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to farewell Your Honour Peter Lauritsen as Chief Magistrate of this court.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and to any Elders with us today.

Impatient to be sentenced, an accused once urged Your Honour to get cracking.

“Just give me 30 years,” he pleaded, “and I’ll BLEEP-off out of your courtroom.”

Intemperate language aside, his submission far exceeded your judicial powers.

In duration, though, it mirrors exactly Your Honour’s three dedicated decades of service to the Magistrates Court of Victoria and our community.

The judicial career we celebrate today is of a solicitor whose achievements have proudly represented our profession and the magistracy.

Your Honour’s late father Eric’s military career included postings to Europe, which necessitated your early education at the former Windsor Boys School in West Germany.

Off duty, he bowled harmless leg breaks to you … but spun a lifelong love of cricket.

Close friend since university, barrister Patrick Casey reckons the ubiquitous black-framed glasses Your Honour tinted for the Australian sun on the ship home in 1964 were reverently worn for 40 years.

When they broke, he says you applied araldite before someone ultimately pinched them from your car … their replacements, however, have preserved a passing resemblance to Buddy Holly.     

According to Mr Casey, the man behind the specs - on and off the bench - is the “straightest dude” he’s ever known … corroborated, he argues, by being a devout four-point sandwich gastronomic since childhood.

And he adds - a decent, open minded and fair man and magistrate. 

At the University of Melbourne, you were more likely found in the library rather than the cafeteria, perhaps indicative of your early commitment to the law.

After Leo Cussen, ten months at Brian Cash’s sole practice preceded work at former Victorian Premier John Cain’s Preston firm, Cain and Lamers.

It was a bread and butter, common law practice that represented northern suburban battlers.

Mr Cain got what he wanted in Your Honour – a calm and measured person of quality who became a reassuring presence.

An even greater comforting presence for Your Honour on arrival was your future wife Kathleen who was practicing at the firm.

Typical of your enthusiasm for the profession, you joined the LIV Council and served as an active member of our committees in the child welfare and family law practice sections.

Since your appointment to the Bench, you have continued to support and assist the LIV and never declined a meeting with members of the profession, particularly the Criminal Law Section, where you unflinchingly and honestly answered questions – no matter how confronting or challenging they were.

You Honour also volunteered for community legal services – before they formerly existed - in Coburg and West Heidelberg and was the President of the Northern Suburbs Law Association.

As honourary solicitor for the Jika Cricket Association, you combined a passion for the game with cycling … regularly to the Northcote Oval.

After two years as a magistrate in the Northern Territory, Your Honour was appointed to this court in 1989.

Initially at Broadmeadows Court alongside the revered Bob Kumar, you exhibited an astounding work ethic and developed a lasting friendship with him.

Like many others in chambers, Mr Kumar flinched in terrified apprehension that Your Honour’s twirling, tossing cricket balls would do damage.

He was far more comfortable admiring your qualities as Chief Magistrate … and as an unfazed leader of intellect, courtesy and master of detail.

Your Honour succeeded later Judge and State Coroner Ian Gray after his 11 years as Chief Magistrate.

Mr Gray encapsulates your support, focus and efficiency in recalling a first talk about creating Judicial Registrars.

The next morning a detailed discussion paper by Your Honour landed on his desk – today there are 13 invaluable JRs.

Mr Gray, who also appointed you Deputy Chief Magistrate, equates the paper to your resolute commitment and application to work.

Given that you once studied to become a geologist, some might consider you had rocks in your head to become Chief Magistrate … but you were proud and humbled to accept the role.

To lead a court visited annually by millions, with hundreds of thousands of matters initiated each year and hundreds of colleagues and staff, confronting challenges was a constant. I have said it before, your Honour has presided over some of the most significant changes to the court and its jurisdiction that have ever occurred.

During Your Honour’s tenure, the court enhanced its innovative, accessible and responsive reputation.

The ever-expanding complexity and initiatives for delivering justice and the perpetual goals of simplifying practices and processes were evidenced through continuing specialist programs or courts. I am glad to see that the government has seen fit to support and expand the reach of courts to the community, including the Drug Court and the Assessment and Referral Court, courts that have been fostered under your care.

Adjusting to sentencing reforms, providing therapeutic justice to those who appear before the Court, an unrelenting commitment to core imperatives and working to support judicial wellbeing are some of the initiatives that have been supported by you in your time presiding over this Court.

On the latter, your executive assistant Jake Warren admires it as Your Honour’s raison d’etre … that policies implemented by you have greatly advanced crucial welfare issues.     

In 2014 you established the Chief Magistrates’ Family Violence Taskforce which comprised of key justice sector stakeholders and provided, then, a crucial point of reference for the Royal Commission. Today, it remains a vital source of information and assistance on the Royal Commission’s implementation initiatives.

Your Honour, colleagues and staff have also confronted major developments – massive increases of persons on remand, their continued non-appearances in court, technology advances including video appearances, the implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the enormous task of temporarily relocating Heidelberg Court.

That Melbourne Magistrates Court now sits seven days – and some nights – is testament to its resourcefulness. The night court is a particular initiative, though its gestation may have formed from your days conducting a similar court in Prahran.

Time permits personal reflections of just a few of the many who wished to. 

Now-Reserve magistrate Barry Braun, for instance, recognises your capacity to consume, retain and work daily with huge volumes of complex data in administering the largest court operation in Victoria. 

Another colleague, Phillip Goldberg, contends that few heads of jurisdiction might regale one with discussion of a boson particle.

Or have visited the Piltdown man in the UK, a fraudulent skeleton once touted as the missing link between man and ape.     

It has been suggested, His Honour observes, that you are the missing link between Buddy Holly and the law … but that no sound justifying that is yet to be heard.

A final word belongs to magistrate Belinda Wallington who regards Your Honour as a good and kind person of the utmost integrity.

However, Her Honour also denotes that during your membership of their book club – the Novel Gazers – your choice was once judged the worst in its ongoing 20-year history.

A decade later you had almost recovered from the infamy when you bravely but unwisely selected a book one review promised that raucous sadomasochism had never been so much fun.

Finally, your Honour’s stated intention of sitting in the County Court as a Reserve Judge will permit you to be addressed as Judge Lauritsen. We know it has been a matter that has interested you for some time, indeed you have spoken about this in the Law Institute Journal that the work of the magistrate is the same as the judge, subject to the same appointment criteria, ethical requirements, rule of law and decision making. We respectfully agree with your Honour’s position.

We are sure that your Honour will remain an asset to the legal profession, either determining matters from the Judicial Bench or providing your quiet wisdom to aspiring young lawyers who wish to provide the best for their clients in court.

May it please the court. 

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