Chief judge reminds 'all judicial officers' of their obligations.

Community magistrates will have their training reviewed, particularly around bail decisions, after a man was released on bail and went on to murder his former partner.

The Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue announced the review yesterday, the same day as the Herald revealed details of the killing of Inayat Kawthar, 24, in Manurewa last week.

Miss Kawthar was stabbed to death by her former partner Ramintesh Avinash, 27 - an attack that followed a violent altercation in her home less than a fortnight earlier when he was charged with threatening to kill her and assault with a weapon.

"When tragic events, such as these, take place it is vital to assess the situation in which they occurred. The Chief Judge is reviewing the ongoing training of community magistrates and their continuing legal education. This professional development will include further instruction on issues relating to bail decisions," said Sonja de Friez, director of community engagement District Courts.


Judge Doogue went further, yesterday reminding "all judicial officers" of their obligations, "inherent of their decision-making as part of continuing judicial education".

However, it's understood the community magistrate will not face censure in any form because it's considered she made the decision to release Avinash on bail based on information available to her.

In addition, in hearings that followed the initial appearance Avinash's bail was not opposed by police once a suitable bail address was found for him in Blockhouse Bay.

"Mr Avinash was granted bail by a community magistrate on the strict condition of non-association with the complainant. The next day he appeared before a judge to resolve the issue of his residential address. Police did not oppose bail on that occasion where bail was continued on those conditions until November, where he was bailed to an address approved by police."

Avinash was found dead under a rail bridge in Manurewa soon after police found Miss Kawthar with stab wounds inside her flat. His death is not suspicious.

It's believed police tried to persuade Miss Kawthar to go into a refuge after the initial incident, in which she received a small wound to her head, but she refused, telling officers she would be all right with the support of family.

What is a community magistrate?

Judicial officers who sit on a wide range of "less serious" cases in the criminal summary jurisdiction of the District Court. They increase the judicial resource available to the courts and free up the expertise of District Court judges for more complex cases.

What powers do they have?

They can hear any offence that carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment not exceeding three months, or offences where the maximum fine does not exceed $7500.

They carry out functions such as sentencing in cases involving defended and non-defended minor fine-only offences, hearing traffic cases such as careless driving or driving without a licence, hearing applications for bail and remand, conducting preliminary hearings for more serious charges, imposing sentence on people found guilty by a District Court judge and directing enforcement against fine defaulters.

Who can become a community magistrate?

Suitable candidates are appointed by the Governor-General after appropriate training.
Community magistrates are chosen from within their community. Any adult can apply with the exception of practising lawyers, police officers, Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections employees, Ministry of Social Development social workers, High Court and District Court staff and anyone contracted to carry out security work in penal institutions.

Source: Ministry of Justice